Sep 162014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/06/06MANILA2302.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA2302 2006-06-02 06:29 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO5552
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2302/01 1530629
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 020629Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1258
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002302

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINS PTER MOPS RP
SUBJECT: PALAWAN: CONFIDENCE ABOUT SECURITY FIVE YEARS
AFTER DOS PALMAS

REF: A. MANILA 2273
¶B. STATE 87969

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Joseph L. Novak for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: During POL team’s recent visit to Palawan
in the western Philippines, GRP officials expressed
confidence about the security situation there five years
after the terrorist raid on the Dos Palmas Resort in May
¶2001. The officials said military assets in the area had
been reinforced in order to protect tourist and other
infrastructure from attack. Contacts claimed that there was
little sign of extremism among Palawan’s small Muslim
population. The military did not see communist New People’s
Army (NPA) insurgents as a threat. The Dos Palmas raid
severely embarrassed the GRP and it appears to have taken
some remedial steps to bolster security. End Summary.

=========================
Confidence about Security
=========================

¶2. (C) Acting Pol/C and Senior POL LES visited Palawan
Island in the western Philippines, May 24-26. In meetings
with POL team, Philippine government authorities expressed
confidence about the security situation there five years
after the terrorist raid on the Dos Palmas Resort. (Note:
On May 27, 2001, Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists raided the
resort located offshore of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and
kidnapped about 20 people, who were taken to the southern
Philippines. Three Americans were among the group; two of
whom were killed during the prolonged hostage-taking. End
Note.) Brigadier General Armando Melo, Deputy Chief of the
Western Command, told Acting POL/C that the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) had bolstered security by reinforcing
naval elements and increasing patrols in the Sulu Sea area
via “Task Force Stingray.” The AFP had also returned a
detachment of Marines, which had been deployed in Mindanao
beginning in the late 1990’s, to Puerto Princesa, the capital
of Palawan, in late 2001.

¶3. (C) The AFP, Melo said, was engaged in a constant round
of maritime security exercises off Palawan. He thanked the
U.S. military for involving AFP forces in joint exercises and
training, which included a large-scale “Balikatan” exercise
held in Palawan in 2004 (Melo himself received U.S. training
in San Diego in 1997 and Monterey in 2002). Overall, Melo
concluded, the AFP was confident that terrorist groups would
have a hard time reprising what had happened in 2001, though
he noted that AFP intelligence lacked resources, and there
were serious “knowledge gaps” in terms of what was known of
terrorist intentions and capabilities.

===================
Dos Palmas Recovers
===================

¶4. (C) POL team also made a brief stop at the Dos Palmas
Resort, which is located several kilometers offshore from
central Puerto Princesa in Honda Bay. Owner Ivan Lim related
that he had increased resort security since the 2001
incident. The Philippine navy had also sharply increased its
patrols of the area since 2001, often stopping at the resort.
Dos Palmas had been forced to close down right after the
attack, but was now doing well — despite ongoing renovations
— thanks to an influx of tourists from South Korea and
elsewhere. Lim said he was in touch with the owners and
managers of the other offshore resorts in the Palawan region,
who reported that security had been tightened around their
properties, too.

==============================
Muslims: “Focused on Business”
==============================

¶5. (C) Contacts claimed that there was little sign of
extremism within the small Muslim population, which comprises
about 5 percent of Palawan’s one million residents. Most of
the community lives in southern Palawan or on the small
islands of Balabac, Bancalan, and Bugsuk located near Sabah,
Malaysia. Songsong Camama, a local Muslim leader,
businessman, and Lion’s Club leader, told Acting Pol/C that
most Muslims in Palawan were “focused on business” and had
little interest in the radical “Moro” politics of Mindanao
and the Sulu Archipelago. He noted, however, that “quite a
few” Mindanao Muslims, especially from the Maranao and Tausug
tribes, had moved to Palawan to escape the fighting in their

MANILA 00002302 002 OF 002

home region (Camama is a Maranao himself, though he has lived
in Palawan for many years). Camama said that he had never
heard of a Muslim mosque or school in Palawan that taught
extremist views.

¶6. (C) Camama noted that there was a lot of business,
including smuggling, being conducted by Palawan Muslims with
Sabah. Many Palawan Muslims also were working in Malaysia
illegally. Camama commented that he had not heard of any
extremists crossing over into Palawan from Sabah via the
Balabac Strait or from Indonesia. AFP and Philippine
National Police contacts — while noting that border controls
were weak — agreed that they had little evidence of
extremists coming into the Philippines from the southern
Palawan entry point.

======================
Little Threat from NPA
======================

¶7. (C) GRP contacts did not see the NPA as a threat. The
AFP estimated that there might be “around 50” NPA cadre
operating in jungles in northern Palawan and perhaps some in
the south. Fighting between the NPA and security forces was
rare, though — in an incident that had resulted in some
casualties — the NPA had attacked an army convoy in the
north in October 2004. According to Palawan Governor Joel R.
Reyes, the “legal” left was active in many areas, however,
and maintained some popularity due to its so-called
“pro-poor” policies.

=======
Comment
=======

¶8. (C) The Dos Palmas raid severely embarrassed the GRP. It
appears to have taken some remedial steps to bolster security
and Palawan — including its large tourist infrastructure —
seems relatively secure at this point. It was positive that
there was little indication that the “backdoor” entry point
between Palawan and points south was being used by extremists
(as the Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago region are used).
GRP authorities readily admitted, however, that they have
little intelligence on the situation and that border controls
are weak. The maritime border control technical needs
project reviewed in ref b can focus usefully on the Palawan
area as part of its upcoming assessment of the Sulu/Sulawesi
triborder region.

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

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

   

 

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