Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/01/09MANILA153.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA153
2009-01-23 08:30
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO3308
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O 230830Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2967
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000153

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2019
TAGS: PREL PINS KISL RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT EYES PEACE TALKS, BUT SOME HURDLES REMAIN

REF: MANILA 00128 (ARROYO CONGRATULATES PRESIDENT
OBAMA)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: At a private January 15 breakfast with the
Ambassador, Presidential Peace Process Adviser Hermogenes
Esperon was upbeat on prospects for peace with Muslim
insurgents in Mindanao. With April as a new target date for
a resumption of talks, Esperon said, the groundwork for new
negotiations was falling into place: the government had
reconstituted its peace panel, selected a chief negotiator,
begun back-channeling with the Muslim rebels, and planned to
approach the Malaysian facilitators. However, frustration
with the Malaysians’ role and lack of action on the part of
the Muslim rebels to rein in their rogue commanders still
loose in central Mindanao were some of the obstacles blocking
a quick return to talks. Discussions with former British and
Sinn Fein facilitators spurred the government to consider new
ways to keep pushing forward, Esperon noted, perhaps by
reworking last year’s aborted Memorandum of Agreement on
territory. The Ambassador encouraged Esperon to consider the
benefits of an immediate end to fighting, at which point the
U.S. could help a return to talks through an infusion of
development aid for specific projects in Mindanao. Esperon
complimented the Ambassador on the success of U.S.
Civil-Military Operations projects in Mindanao and encouraged
the U.S. to engage the Philippine military to do more. END
SUMMARY.

PREPARING A NEW PATH TO PEACE TALKS
———————————–

¶2. (C) Presidential Peace Process Adviser Hermogenes Esperon,
at a private January 15 breakfast with the Ambassador,
optimistically described the government’s desire to return to
peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),
and identified April as a realistic target date for the full
resumption of talks. The effort to return to the negotiating
table gained momentum earlier this month, Esperon said, with
the selection of Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary
Rafael Seguis as chief negotiator on the government’s peace
panel and with back-channelling that confirmed the rebel
group is “ready to talk.” Government officials planned to
travel to Kuala Lumpur to connect with the Malaysian
facilitators, but the visit was postponed to the end of the
month.

¶3. (C) Regarding the actual peace agreement, Esperon said the
government was looking at ways it might break the impasse on
the MILF’s demands for the Memorandum of Agreement on
territory to be revisited in the next phase of talks. Based
on recent discussions in Manila with former British and Sinn
Fein facilitators, Esperon noted there could be a way to
“rework” the Agreement to everyone’s satisfaction, in a
manner similar to how British and Northern Ireland
negotiators reworked their agreement. The Philippine
government’s perspective on the role of Malaysia was also
evolving, Esperon said, and there was more interest now in
limiting the role of Malaysia to that of a true facilitator
— one that simply brings the parties together and helps
bring new ideas to the table — as opposed to their previous
highly-involved role as a communications channel between the
two parties.

OBSTACLES REMAIN
—————-

¶4. (C) Esperon admitted that several obstacles stood in the
way of a full resumption of talks. With the Malaysian
government transitioning to a new prime minister in March,
Esperon was uncertain what the impact would be on the peace
talks. The Philippine side was growing frustrated with the
Malaysian tendency to delay their face-to-face meetings,
Esperon said, and with the Malaysians’ close relationship
with the MILF, such that the MILF would not engage Philippine
officials at all unless the Malaysian facilitators were
present. The Malaysian facilitators expressed interest in
rejoining the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in
Mindanao, but Esperon acknowledged the Philippines was
considering a new IMT format, splitting it into two parts:
one for security led by Brunei, and one for economic
development led by Japan, maintaining an as-of-yet undefined
role for Malaysia.

¶5. (C) Turning to the situation on the ground in Mindanao,
Esperon said the MILF had not yet relieved the three rogue

MANILA 00000153 002 OF 002

MILF commanders of their military commands, as the group said
it would do in response to the government’s demand.
Meanwhile, according to Esperon, the Philippine government
remained engaged in targeted military operations against the
MILF and had yet to shift its mindset from “war doctrine” to
“peace doctrine.” A transition to a peace-focused mindset
and a return to peace talks, Esperon confided, would be made
easier if the security situation improved.

U.S. HELPING PARTIES RETURN TO PEACE TALKS
——————————————

¶6. (C) The Ambassador urged Esperon to weigh the benefits of
ending fighting quickly; the security situation could improve
once talks resumed. To encourage the parties to stop
fighting and start talking, the Ambassador noted, the U.S.
would provide development assistance upon the resumption of
talks, supporting projects considered important by each side
and executing them according to U.S. terms. Esperon was
complimentary on the U.S. military’s continued low profile
during the Mindanao conflict, as well as on the success of
the U.S. military’s Civil-Military Operations, in which he
suggested the U.S. encourage the Armed Forces of the
Philippines to stay engaged.

KENNEY

   

 

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