Oct 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/12/07MANILA3909.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA3909
2007-12-13 02:01
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO0395
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHML #3909/01 3470201
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 130201Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9164
INFO RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003909

SIPDIS

SIPDIS, SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM MASS EAID KISL RP
SUBJECT: DCM VISIT HIGHLIGHTS U.S. COMMITMENT TO PEACE IN MINDANAO

REF: 06 MANILA 4553

¶1. (SBU) Summary. Visiting Muslim Mindanao’s cultural and religious
hub in Marawi City, DCM spoke at Peace Week opening ceremonies,
highlighting the American people’s commitment to the ongoing peace
process and U.S. interest in helping Mindanao achieve a peaceful and
prosperous future. He reiterated these themes throughout a November
28-29 visit at USAID projects; in meetings with municipal, military,
religious, and academic leaders; and during a live radio interview.
Civic and government leaders spoke positively about the peace
process and appreciated our support. The enthusiastic reception at
all events in this Muslim-majority city was reminiscent of the
Ambassador’s October 2006 visit (reftel). End Summary.
THE ISLAMIC CITY OF MARAWI
¶2. (U) Marawi City is Lanao del Sur’s principal city, as well as
Muslim Mindanao’s educational, cultural, and religious center. The
city is part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and
over 90 percent of Marawi’s 131,000 residents are Muslim. Arabic is
widely taught among the city’s students; many local residents can
read, write, and speak some Arabic, as well as the local Maranao
dialect. The ARMM receives 98 percent of its operating revenue from
the national government and has no other significant sources of
revenue. The ARMM region ranks at the bottom of all Philippine
regions in terms of income and human development, such as spending
on education and infrastructure. The local economy is largely based
on agriculture and exporting.
EXAMINING THE PEACE PROCESS WITH LOCAL LEADERS
¶3. (SBU) Former governor of Lanao del Sur, and leading Muslim ulama,
Mahid Mutilan, expressed optimism for the government peace
negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
insurgents. He cautioned, however, that confidence-building and
demonstrable implementation at each step along the way will be
necessary. Mutilan recalled a conversation with previous MILF
leader Hashim Salamat in which Salamat said the MILF would agree to
a comprehensive peace, but not until promised government development
programs were actually implemented. (Mutilan was tragically killed
in a car accident just days after dinner with DCM.)
¶4. (SBU) The DCM asked local government officials, academic leaders,
and the city’s former Mayor, Omar “Solitario” Ali whether the
current conflict is rooted in a lack of development, an inability to
create governance structures, or religious differences. Solitario
insisted that a federalist structure would most effectively assure
stability and peace, while others observed that development is
necessary for a peace agreement. Another offered that once local
people are empowered to manage their social and governance
structures, rebellion would be unnecessary. Overall, contacts were
optimistic about the peace process, although several bemoaned the
lengthy progression. Asked how the U.S. could contribute to the
process, several interlocutors responded that the U.S. should help
speed it up.
¶5. (U) Some leaders told DCM that if Maranaos were not Muslim, they
would not be perceived as a “problem” but simply as another
population of poor Filipinos. They explained that as Muslims, they
seek to follow Muslim traditions, including eating their own food,
practicing their religion, and establishing alternative government
structures. A city councilman suggested that Maranao alienation is
deep rooted, with some Maranaos not accepting they are Filipino
because of the Christian and Spanish background it connotes.
LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
¶6. (SBU) The local and provincial Chiefs of Police, as well as local
government leaders formerly part of the Moro National Liberation
Front (MNLF) leadership, told DCM they maintain contact with the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Police officials said they
cannot enter MILF-controlled areas on the outskirts of Lake Lanao,
including an active MILF camp, without coordinating with MILF
leaders through the Ad hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG). They stated
that family feuds are the biggest regional law enforcement problem.
¶7. (U) The Marawi Police Station is one of ten model police stations
under the Philippines National Police (PNP)’s transformation
program. Starting in December 2007, the station will receive U.S.
Department of Justice police training focused on community policing.
Students will learn strategies for engaging the public in the law
enforcement process. While welcoming the program’s emphasis on
community policing, local and regional chiefs told DCM they most
needed vehicles and radios to become more effective.
“PEACE WEEK” AT MINDANAO STATE UNIVERSITY
¶8. (U) In support of Mindanao’s “Peace Week,” DCM delivered a
message at Mindanao State University’s Opening Ceremonies on
November 29. MILF officials, 17 participating NGOs, and thousands of
university students and faculty attended. A Joint Special Operations
Task Force medical civil affairs program on December 4, “Peace
Week”‘s culminating event, was widely and enthusiastically
anticipated by the community.
¶9. (U) In a meeting with DCM, Mindanao State University President
Richard De Leon emphasized the University’s mission of creating a
common understanding across religions. The University boasts an
equal mix of Christians and Muslims among its students and focuses
on teaching empathy and respect for diversity. The University offers
an interdisciplinary Master of Arts in Global Studies Major in
American Studies, including several courses related to the United
States. De Leon outlined a proposal for an Institute for Religious

MANILA 00003909 002 OF 002

Studies that would engage with clergy and those interested in the
study of world religions to facilitate exchange of ideas between
universities and religious organizations in America and the
Philippines. The DCM led a roundtable discussion at the U.S.
supported American Studies Resource Center with 25 students from
various programs. The students were enthusiastic and engaged,
offering questions on what role the U.S. could play in creating a
lasting and durable peace in Mindanao. There was also considerable
interest in exchange programs.
DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE SHOWS U.S. COMMITMENT
¶10. (SBU) In nearby Lanao del Norte Province, DCM joined Governor
Dimaporo to inaugurate USAID’s Abaga-Buenavista Road Upgrading
Project, one of 830 community infrastructure projects constructed
over the past four years as part of USAID’s Growth and Equity in
Mindanao (GEM) program. The U.S.-educated, 27-year old Governor told
the enthusiastic crowd of villagers and children at the
ribbon-cutting that, as a result of U.S. assistance projects, “we
believe the leader of the Free World cares about us.” The governor,
a descendent of Lanao’s sultan, lauded American assistance for being
non-political, with no strings attached.
¶11. (U) In Marawi City, DCM formally handed over a USAID Computer
Literacy and Internet Connection (CLIC) assistance package
consisting of a wireless broadband Internet connection, computer
equipment, and resource materials to the Parent-Teacher-Community
Association and school administration of Marawi Islamic Computer
College. Although per student expenditure on education within the
ARMM is less than U.S. $100 per year, resulting in poor scores on
standardized achievement tests, students and administrators noted
that CLIC resources now make it possible to receive a first-class
education without leaving Marawi. Hundreds of students waiving
homemade American flags greeted DCM and party.
AFP COORDINATION
¶12. (U) The DCM called on the local Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) Deputy Commander Colonel Paglan and visited the co-located
U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force – Local Coordination
Element (JSOTF-LCE). Colonel Paglan recalled the peaceful Marawi of
his childhood in the early 1960s, when many tourists, including
Americans, visited the lake-side city. He reported a stable
security environment and good liaison with local MILF commanders.
He appreciated the support of the U.S. Liaison Element.
MEDIA COVERAGE
¶13. (SBU) Regional print and TV media outlets covered the USAID
events and DCM’s “Peace Week” remarks. In a live radio interview
heard throughout Marawi City, DCM emphasized the overarching theme
of the trip – that the American people believe in the future of
Mindanao and believe that it will be peaceful and prosperous. The
only challenging issue from the media was the perennial question
about whether the U.S. is establishing “secret bases” in Mindanao,
which DCM firmly denied. The DCM explained that USAID program
initiatives in Mindanao, including GEM III, demonstrate that the
American people want to contribute to Mindanao’s development.
KENNEY

   

 

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