Oct 252014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/02/08MANILA293.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA293
2008-02-04 10:39
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 041039Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9643
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000293

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2018
TAGS: MARR MASS MCAP PREL RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPINE ARMED FORCES CHIEF OF STAFF ESPERON STRESSES U.S. ASSISTANCE, FORCE PROTECTION IN MEETING WITH AMBASSADOR KENNEY

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney for Reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a February 1 private breakfast, the
Ambassador and Philippine Chief of the Armed Forces General
Hermogenes Esperon, who on January 25 was extended by
President Arroyo until May 9, 2008, held a wide-ranging
discussion. Esperon began by saying it was time to wrap up
the campaign against high-value Muslim terrorist targets in
the southern Philippines and that both the political and
military leadership were committed to pressing the fight in
the coming months. Discussing U.S. assistance with the
Ambassador, Esperon said he was thrilled with the recent
announcement that 1207 funds would be used to improve the
airport in Jolo and requested even greater targeted
information from the USG to help locate and capture
high-value terrorists without putting civilians in danger.
On the upcoming Balikatan exercises, the Ambassador again
emphasized the need to make force protection of U.S. troops a
top priority and Esperon concurred, saying it was critical to
guarantee the safety of U.S. troops working alongside
Philippine military forces. Esperon expounded on the
security situation in the Sulu Archipelago, highlighting the
need for stronger police capability and explaining the
rationale behind the command changes and the relocation of
Philippine forces in the southern Philippines as part of the
Fleet Marine concept the Philippine government is
implementing. Esperon voiced a strong interest in promoting
strategic communications, saying he believes it could be used
to improve morale among Philippine forces in the future. END
SUMMARY.

——————————————— —–
THANKFUL FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE, MORE INTEL REQUESTED
——————————————— —–

¶2. (C) The Ambassador hosted Philippine Chief of Staff of
the Armed Forces General Hermogenes Esperon at a private
breakfast on February 1 and discussed a wide range of topics.
On January 25, President Arroyo announced that Esperon, who
had been slated to retire on February 9 upon reaching the
mandatory retirement age of 56, was extended in his position
until May 9, 2008, at which time Chief of the Army General
Alexander Yano would become the Chief of Staff. Esperon was
candid in his assessment that the time had come to wrap up
the fight against high-value Muslim terrorist targets in the
southern Philippines, and that both the political and
military leadership were committed to taking concrete steps
towards this goal in the coming months. While discussing
U.S. assistance with the Ambassador, Esperon remarked that he
was thrilled that 1207 funds would be used in a USAID project
to upgrade the airport in Jolo and said that as peace
approaches, more infrastructure would be needed. Esperon
thanked the Ambassador for intelligence sharing, saying it
had helped the Philippine forces target specific individuals.
At the same time, Esperon requested additional intelligence
and capabilities to assist the Philippines in locating
high-value terrorists and bringing combat operations against
them, intelligence that Esperon said was critical to reducing
the potential for civilian casualties.

————————————
PROTECTION OF U.S. TROOPS A PRIORITY
————————————

¶3. (C) Turning to the upcoming joint U.S.-Philippine
Balikatan exercises, the Ambassador again raised the
importance of force protection for U.S. troops and emphasized
that if anything happened to U.S. soldiers, it could be
extremely damaging to our counterterrorism assistance
efforts. Esperon agreed completely, and said he had directed
his commanders to make the security of U.S. forces a top
priority, noting that it was an issue he took personally.

——————————————— ————
MILITARY PROVIDING SECURITY BUT TRAINING POLICE IMPORTANT
——————————————— ————

¶4. (C) Esperon expounded on the recent changes in troop
deployments in the Sulu Archipelago, whereby the Marines will
have a greater role on Basilan and Jolo and the army will be
more heavily concentrated on Mindanao. He said that this
shift was related to the implementation of the Fleet Marine
concept, which gives the Marines a distinct area of
operations, that had been planned for some time. He added

MANILA 00000293 002 OF 002

that the deployment of more Marines to Jolo, along with
putting Brigadier Juancho Sabban in command there, would help
step up the fight against specific terrorist targets on Jolo,
who so far have eluded capture. While stating that
cooperation with civilian authorities on Jolo, including
Governor Tan, was going well, Esperon said that the police
were woefully inadequate in their capabilities to provide
public safety, and that long-term focus had to be on
developing a competent police force, because the military
could not be expected to provide security forever.

————————————
EMPHASIS ON STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS
————————————

¶5. (C) Musing on what he might do when his term ends in
May, Esperon said that he had long nursed a desire to promote
better strategic communications among the armed forces. He
said he believed that many of the endemic problems in the
Philippine Armed Forces related to morale and weak rapport
with the population could be addressed through a
comprehensive approach to better communications with troops
in the field. Esperon lamented that the strategic
communications portion of Philippine Defense Reform had
stalled. He said he wanted to encourage commanders to take
advantage of broadcast media and other technology, including
the websites and blogging, to move information more quickly
to deployed units and populations in their areas. The
Ambassador cited the U.S. Armed Forces Network (AFN) as a
model in providing U.S. troops with up-to-date and useful
information on both military and non-military issues, and
Esperon remarked that it would be useful to have an AFN team
provide advice and assistance as the initiative moves forward.

¶6. (C) Another communications challenge facing the military
was the Philippine media, Esperon said. While there were
always individuals who wanted to attack the U.S., Esperon
said it was a small, but persistent minority. He said it was
better to engage difficult journalists if they are part of
the mainstream media, because in the end, he believed the
positive message would get through. One key area Esperon
said he was promoting among his commanders was the need for
them to coordinate more effectively on public messaging with
the Embassy Public Affairs Section and the Joint Special
Operations Task Force-Philippines, not only in the coming
weeks leading up to Balikatan, but long-term as we continue
to engage audiences during future events.

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/

KENNEY

   

 

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