Oct 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/02/07MANILA594.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA594 2007-02-22 07:00 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO4291
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0594/01 0530700
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 220700Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5375
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA IMMEDIATE 1147
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM IMMEDIATE 0121
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MANILA 000594

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2012
TAGS: PREL EAID MOPS MA RP
SUBJECT: MILF WELCOMES US ASSISTANCE BUT WANTS HELP ON POLITICAL SOLUTION

REF: 06 MANILA 4802

Classified By: DCM Paul W. Jones, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary. In a meeting in Sultan Kudarat with
Embassy delegation led by DCM on February 15, MILF Central
Committee members expressed appreciation for U.S. assistance
programs in Mindanao, including our military’s
civil-humanitarian and medical programs and ship visits.
However, they underscored that developmental assistance would
not be successful without a political “solution” in Mindanao.
They urged that the USG convince the Philippine government
to take a more sympathetic look at MILF territorial claims,
while expressing interest in the government’s recent
“self-determination” proposal. The International Monitoring
Team remains optimistic about the cease-fire, and looks
forward to eventual Swedish and Canadian participation.
Cotabato City Mayor Sema described ongoing MILF/MNLF dialogue
and greater internal MNLF unity, but downplayed the prospects
for a campaign by MNLF founder Nur Misuari as governor of
Sulu. Our ongoing dialogue with the MILF leadership appears
to be bearing fruit, as the MILF is clearly opening up and
seeking to involve other parties in securing peace. The
Central Committee remains narrowly focused on maximizing
territory under a new Muslim political entity, however, and
was not yet ready to accept our initiatives to inaugurate
local USAID development projects or tour the visiting USS
Blue Ridge in General Santos City. End Summary.

BRIEFING THE MILF CENTRAL COMMITTEE
———————————–

¶2. (C) DCM on February 15 led an Embassy delegation
composed of Pol/C, USAID director, DATT, JSOTF-P commander,
and A/RSO to meet with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front’s Central Committee at the MILF headquarters in Sultan
Kudarat in Shariff Kabunsuan province. Although Chairman
al-Hadji Murad Ebrahim did not appear as promised, Vice
Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, Chief peace negotiator Mohagher
Iqbal, MILF peace panel member Attorney Lanang Ali, Foreign
Affairs chief Ahmad Uli, and Education chief Ustadz Adul
Salam Mohammed were present for the two hour meeting.

¶3. (C) At the DCM’s request, the USAID director outlined
our current and planned developmental programs throughout
Mindanao. He noted that 60 pct of our overall assistance is
targeted on Conflict Affected Areas of Mindanao, totaling
about US$250 million over the past six years. He highlighted
successful partnerships, including with the private sector,
and noted the upcoming beginning of the third phase of the
Growth with Equity in Mindanao program. He emphasized that
our assistance did not depend on an eventual Philippine/MILF
peace accord but was already widespread and multi-faceted.
He reaffirmed that USAID would launch a
livelihood/reintegration program within two weeks of the
signing of a peace accord, working with the Bangsamoro
Development Agency and the MILF leadership. He described the
integrated approach involving diplomatic, political,
economic, military, and assistance components as well as
international donors through the Mindanao Trust Fund. (Note:
We had invited MILF Central Committee members to join DCM
and delegation to inaugurate a near-by USAID-funded trading
center immediately after our meeting, but they did not take
us up on the opportunity. End note)

¶4. (C) Pol/C noted that the USG was not playing a role in
the peace negotiations under the mediation of the Malaysian
government and was not taking sides on the shape or
composition of the eventual outcome, just as the USG did not
take sides in Philippine elections or on domestic political
issues such as charter change. He emphasized our concern for
fair, legal, and constitutional processes. He underscored
that the overall USG goals for Mindanao and all of the
Philippines were peace and prosperity, and that we were
working with partners to achieve this wherever conditions of
peace and security permitted and where communities had made
this their choice, rather than violence, insurgency, or
terrorism. He cited growing zones of peace and prosperity,
which would be a green light for additional domestic and
foreign investment to provide better lives for peace-loving
families throughout Mindanao and rest of the Philippines.

¶5. (C) The JSOTF-P commander described the U.S. military’s
training of and assistance to the Armed Forces of the
Philippines to improve our and their capabilities and to help
Philippine residents with medical, engineering, and logistics
projects, including under the Balikatan umbrella. He
discussed eight medical missions that would take place in

MANILA 00000594 002 OF 004

Central Mindanao under BK 07, as well as an upcoming visit to
Cotabato City by the USS Peleliu, including medical and
engineering projects locally.

¶6. (C) The D/RSO discussed the USG’s Rewards for Justice
program and provided printed materials to distribute in MILF
areas, which the MILF leaders promised to do. DCM cited in
particular rewards for wanted terrorists Zukifli bin hir (aka
Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman, who were believed to be hiding
in areas under the control of MILF base commands. Jaafar
insisted that Basit was not and had never been a MILF member
but was a native, unlike the Jemaah Islamiyah’s Marwan,
Patek, and Dulmatin, for whom he promised the MILF would be
on the lookout. Iqbar noted the “mysterious” circumstances
under which Basit had escaped from a Philippine jail in 2002,
implying that Basit may have links to the Philippine
government. (Comment; We have no/no reason to support this
view. End comment)

¶7. (C) The DATT discussed the ongoing visit of the Seventh
Fleet’s flagship USS Blue Ridge, including a stop in General
Santos City, as part of the Pacific Command’s “Pacific
Horizon” program. The DCM extended invitations for the MILF
leaders to a special tour and to attend the reception aboard
the Blue Ridge on February 17. Jaafar thanked the DCM for
the invitation, saying he would contact DCM if they could
attend (but never did).

MILF RESPONSES
————–

¶8. (C) Vice Chairman Jaafar expressed appreciation for
these briefings. He emphasized that the “MILF knows best”
regarding the needs of its people and should play a central
role in determining developmental programs. DCM pointed out
USAID’s close cooperation with the Bangsamoro Development
Agency, which Jaafar acknowledged was under the direct
supervision of the MILF Central Committee.

¶9. (C) Chief negotiator Iqbar insisted that the MILF
leadership was more interested in political rather than
economic aspects, and claimed that developmental programs
absent support for a political solution was a form of
counter-insurgency effort that would never succeed. He
commented that all parties needed to resolve the central
political issues first, otherwise there would be no lasting
peace, citing the example of the Moro National Liberation
Front. Jaafar agreed that, while the MILF “did not object”
to what USAID and other donors were doing in Mindanao, a
political solution must come first. He admitted that the
MILF would always “support projects that benefit our people.”

¶10. (C) Jaafar insisted that the USG could offer its “good
ideas” on the peace talks to the Philippine government. He
said that this should not be seen as interference or a breach
of Malaysia’s facilitation role — but even if it was, “we
don’t care.” Attorney Ali also commented that “if we settle
the political issue, assistance and other programs could
continue.” He urged the USG to offer any “bright ideas” that
would move the Philippine government toward a “favorable
settlement” because the Philippine government would “listen
to the U.S.” He added that “your commitment to help the
talks succeed will help.” Iqbar cited the MNLF peace accord,
which had left the MNLF “defeated politically.” Jaafar
admitted that development projects were part of a political
solution, but that development itself would not “solve”
political problems.

¶11. (C) DCM asked about the MILF’s response to the
Philippine government’s recent “self-determination” proposal.
Attorney Ali said it was a very intriguing proposal. Jaafar
explained that self determination was a long-standing MILF
demand the government had previously rejected. Jaafar
quickly turned the conversation back to territory,
reiterating that the MILF wanted the Bangsamoro Juridical
Entity to include “all areas traditionally occupied by the
Bangsamoro people” in a contiguous territory that would
include majority Christian localities. The government would
have Muslim-governed areas divided into a patchwork, he said.
He denied that resolving territorial issues in mixed
Christian-Muslim areas was difficult, claiming “it is very
simple!” Attorney Ali noted that the Philippine government
had to “figure out how” to deliver Christian majority areas
to a Muslim juridical entity, whether by Constitutional
processes or Executive action. Iqbar reminded the delegation
about earlier Philippine promises over territory to the MNLF,
which were then defeated in referendums. Jaafar claimed that

MANILA 00000594 003 OF 004

the MILF was in constant and increasingly “successful”
dialogue with the MNLF, as well as NGOs and other Bangsamoro
groups. He admitted that there “cannot be two governments
for one place” — a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity could not
co-exist with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Iqbar cited as an interesting model USG agreements with
Native Americans, treating them as “nations,” and said the
Philippine government should agree on creating a “state
within the state.”

¶12. (C) Jaafar forcefully denied the existence of an MILF
Special Operations Group. He pledged that the MILF was “very
interested in peace” and that the Central Committee would
“work hard to establish peace.” He welcomed the opportunity
to continue dialogue with the U.S. Embassy.

IMT Optimistic
————–

¶13. (C) In a separate meeting at the Cotabato City
headquarters of the International Monitoring Team, Head of
Mission Major General Dato’ Md Ismail “Smile” bin Ahmad Khan
said that the cease-fire was “holding well,” with
dramatically fewer incidents and fewer internally displaced
persons, and expressed optimism about the future. He
admitted that the peace process nonetheless remained
“fragile,” with many actors with suspicious motives. The IMT
now covers sixteen out of Mindanao’s 22 provinces, with a
total of 57 members, including the new Japanese development
expert as well as the troops from Malaysia, Brunei, and
Libya. He said that Canada and Sweden were now finalizing
details about their participation, focusing on governance and
development, respectively. He expressed eagerness to work
with JSOTF-P on future medical missions.

Mayor Sema and the MNLF
———————–

¶14. (C) Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, a member of the
MNLF’s Council of 15, reaffirmed his commitment to security
and counter-terrorism efforts in Central Mindanao. He
discussed the recent hostage-taking by MNLF elements of the
AFP’s Major General Dolorfino on Jolo, which he claimed had
not been “planned” but erupted because Dolorfino did not come
to the MNLF prepared with “blood money” for alleged MNLF
troops killed by the AFP in a recent encounter. He claimed
that the MNLF had held a meeting during the week of February
5 that had “reunited it,” despite some minor “grey areas.”
He expressed worry about some new “violent factions” who
believe that the MNLF had been “deceived” by the 1996 peace
accord, which is why the MNLF looks forward to the upcoming
review of implementation of the 1996 agreement in Jeddah,
Saudi Arabia, by the Organization of Islamic Collective, the
Philippine government, and the MNLF. He expressed a strong
hope that MNLF founder Nur Misuari would not run for governor
of Sulu, as rumored.

¶15. (C) Sema confirmed that the MILF and MNLF continued a
dialogue, but had not come to terms about a possible
Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. He insisted that any future
political arrangement should not result in “hamlet-ing”
Muslim residents or isolating anyone, including Christians.
He expressed a desire for an “inclusive” solution that would
not be exactly either the ARMM or the MILF-envisioned BJE.
He said that he had not read the Philippine government’s
latest self-determination offer, but commented that it was
“potentially good.”

¶16. (C) Mayor Sema also expressed a warm welcome for
upcoming ship visits and humanitarian projects.

Comment
——-

¶17. (C) The MILF has also met in recent days with
delegations from the European Union and Japan. It is clearly
opening up and seeking to involve other parties in
influencing a final outcome that maximizes the territory
under a new Muslim political entity. The MILF leaders
expressed surprisingly little interest in JSOTF-P and DAO
programs, beyond a fairly warm welcome. They were well
versed on many USAID projects in their area, as well as
insistent on their “right” to guide future development
programs. They appear nonetheless to be worried that the
“political solution” they seek with the Philippine government
is still out of reach, and want additional help from us and
others.

MANILA 00000594 004 OF 004

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

KENNEY

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.