Oct 222014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1857 2005-04-22 09:56 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001857


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2015


Classified By: Pol/C Scott Bellard, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary. The GRP is pleased by the April 18-20
GRP-MILF talks and views a peace accord as do-able by the end
of 2005. The latest talks seemed to lead to a meeting of
minds on how to define ancestral domain and set up a
mechanism for delineating territory. The GRP believes that
existing laws on indigenous peoples will suffice for the
implementation of any eventual accord, and that the MILF
increasingly agrees. This seems a little too easy, unless
the MILF is truly under growing pressure from its peoples to
reach an agreement that could lead to peace and development.
Test of the joint statement issued after the talks in para 9.
End Summary.

¶2. (C) In a meeting on April 22 with Pol/C, the
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Secretary Teresita
“Ging” Quintos-Deles, expressed optimism for a peace accord
with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before the end
of 2005, based on new momentum from the 7th round of
exploratory talks that took place in Fort Dickson, Malaysia
April 18-20 (reftel). While noting that both sides had
agreed not to divulge the details of the “breakthrough” cited
in the joint statement for fear of “causing new anxieties and
problems” among those who did not understand the “full
context,” she confirmed that a consensus had emerged on
twelve major points.

¶3. (C) Secretary Deles clarified that the concept on
ancestral domain that the MILF had put forward at the talks
clearly seemed to mesh with existing GRP “definitions and
laws,” which would obviate the need for any Constitutional
changes. She said that the GRP was ready to recognize the
Bangsamoro as a group that would meet the terms of the GRP’s
legislation on indigenous peoples with entitlement to special
benefits, including autonomous areas once approved by the
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. She specified
that these territorial definitions would cover bodies of
water and include the need at least for “consent” by the
indigenous people over exploitation of mineral resources in
those areas. Both sides agreed in principle on “joint
delineation” of territory that an eventual agreement would
cover, based on an exchange of maps expected at the 8th round
of exploratory talks, which she predicted would take place in
June. She confirmed that the technical teams of both sides
had now returned home to prepare for the next round.

¶4. (C) For its part, the MILF had agreed — for the first
time — to an explicit recognition that the identification of
indigenous people would follow the “principle of choice,”
i.e. non-Muslim residents in MILF areas would be able to
decide whether or not they wished to be included in the
Bangsamoro group, according to Secretary Deles. She added
that this would also mean that the MILF would also recognize
the rights of other indigenous peoples in these areas who did
not identify themselves as part of the Bangsamoro group. She
underscored that the MILF had explicitly recognized the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as “a core” of the
Bangsamoro area. She added that the MILF had not expressed
any reservations or positions about the August 2005 ARMM
elections, for which the Arroyo Administration (including
coalition parties in Congress) was now deciding on its
favored candidate. (She noted that she was chairman of the
panel to pick the candidate but declined to offer any names,
although she said that President Arroyo would have to make a
final decision before April 30 in order to meet campaign
deadlines laid out by the Commission on Elections.) She said
that the MILF had appeared to accept that the GRP would have
to go through “legal processes” to make any modifications to
the ARMM if necessary following a final peace agreement, but
claimed that “this is yet not an issue for the MILF.”

¶5. (C) Secretary Deles admitted that the Fort Dickson
discussions had at least alluded to links between the MILF
and the Jemaah Islamiyah but claimed that the MILF
negotiators “didn’t deny” this as a problem that they “seemed
to accept the need” to resolve. She also claimed the MILF
was “already doing something” unilaterally, as well as
through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, against the JI,
although she declined to provide more details. She confirmed
that the April 15-16 attack by the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) on a suspected JI-ASG hideout in MILF
territory “had not affected” the mood of the GRP-MILF talks,
with the MILF merely “accepting” the GRP account of the
incident. She added that both sides remain committed to the
use of the Coordinating Committees on Cessation of
Hostilities (CCCH) to deal with such cease-fire related
issues. She noted that the MILF had not raised the possible
designation by the USG or others of individual MILF
commanders as terrorists, and she confirmed the GRP view that
such designation “could help” the peace process.

¶6. (C) According to Secretary Deles, GRP optimism in the
wake of the talks was based not so much on the substance —
although she described these talks as clearly the most
substantive ever on issues beyond the cease-fire — as on the
“way the discussion was undertaken.” She noted that MILF
negotiators had not “lectured” their GRP counterparts as
formerly, and appeared “diligent” and “serious.” She
expressed confidence that MILF Chairman Murad would be able
to “sell” these new developments — and an eventual peace
accord — to MILF members and residents in MILF areas, and
said that she expected the MILF soon to convene meetings to
educate them. At the same time, the GRP would reach out to
civil society groups — especially Christians in Mindanao —
to seek their support as well.

¶7. (C) The peace accord by year’s end that Secretary Deles
envisions “does not need to resolve all territorial issues”
but rather only needed to establish accepted “procedures on
how to define,” such as “setting up an agency.” She admitted
that the MILF had not yet formally abandoned a call for
independence, but had simply not even raised this at all in
the latest talks. “Governance” would be the next major issue
to tackle as part of the “political discussions,” she added.
She speculated that the MILF would be heartened by the recent
approval by the NCIP of two new autonomous zones for Moro
groups in territories outside of MILF-controlled areas.

¶8. (C) Comment: Embassy has not yet been able to get a
direct read-out from the MILF, although the media quoted MILF
chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal as hailing the “very fruitful
negotiations,” while MILF Chairman Murad reportedly predicted
“the road to victory is long and winding.” An agreement in
the next six months that is built primarily on existing GRP
laws and practices seems surprisingly too easy and likely
still difficult for the MILF to swallow whole, unless growing
internal pressure in MILF zones for peace and development
really has contributed to some genuinely new and positive
thinking in the MILF leadership. End Comment.

¶9. (U) Text of the Joint Statement

The 7th Round of GRP-MILF Exploratory Talks concluded on a
high note today in Fort Dickson, Malaysia with both Parties
expressing deep satisfaction over the result of the joint
discussions on ancestral domain.

The GRP-MILF Panels led more than 40 technical resource
persons from both sides in multi-level meetings to examine
the details in the agenda, which included the concept,
territory, resources, and governance aspects of the ancestral
domain issue.

After a three-day session on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of
the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001, the Technical Working
Groups (TWGs) agreed on several substantial points vis-a-vis
the strands on concept, territory and resources, and further
agreed to tackle the strand on governance in the next round
of talks.

Since the inception of the GRP-MILF peace process in January
1997, the Fort Dickson talks marked the first time that both
sides entered into substantive discussions outside the
cessation of hostilities. They hailed the outcome of the
meeting as a breakthrough towards a just and durable solution
to the Mindanao conflict.

The Panels decided to forge on with technical level talks in
Malaysia to exhaust all possible consensus points before the
start of formal negotiations expected to be held by mid-year.

They also affirmed that recent hostilities in Mindanao would
not affect the impetus of the peace talks and that both sides
would strive to resolve all outstanding cease-fire issues at
a subsidiary level.

The Parties likewise agreed to strengthen the operations of
the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) in order to bolster the
joint campaign against lawlessness and criminality.

Both Parties reiterated the substantive role of the
International Monitoring Team (IMT) in monitoring the
implementation of the security, rehabilitation and
development aspects of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on
Peace of 2001. Both Parties hope for the continued presence
of the IMT in Mindanao.

The Panels expressed their gratitude to the Malaysian
Government headed by H.E,. Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah
Bin Haji Ahmad Badawi for its continued facilitating role in
the peace process, and the unwavering commitment of H.E.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the achievement of a
durable, comprehensive and lasting peace in Mindanao.

They lauded the excellent facilities and assistance extended
by the Malaysian Secretariat under the Office of the Prime
Minister. They likewise expressed their appreciation for the
efforts of the technical experts of both sides who worked
hard to ensure the successful outcome of the talks.

Done on the 20th April 2005 at Fort Dickson, Malaysia.

For the GRP For the MILF:

Silvestre C. Afable, Jr. Mohagher Iqbal
GRP Panel Chair MILF Chair
end text



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