Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/08/09MANILA1645.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1645
2009-08-04 09:30
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001645

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2019
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PINR PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT TO RESUME TALKS WITH COMMUNIST REBELS

REF: A. MANILA 1586
¶B. MANILA 1219
¶C. 2008 MANILA 1795

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: As referred to briefly in President
Arroyo’s July 27 State of the Nation Address (reftel A),
long-defunct negotiations with the communist-affiliated
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) coalition
will likely be resumed in Oslo, Norway during the second week
of August. Following a lengthy hiatus since the collapse of
the last round of talks in 2004, each side views the August
meeting as a chance to revisit unfinished business and to
influence the public in the lead-up to May 2010 national
elections. The ambitious leader of the government’s
negotiating panel expressed hope that talks will ultimately
achieve a breakthrough and secure a comprehensive peace
agreement. Whether or not a final agreement is reachable,
convening of talks will provide useful momentum to the
long-delayed peace process. The Philippine government claims
that both sides agreed to discard preconditions for talks,
including the NDFP’s insistence on its removal from U.S. and
E.U. terrorist lists. The diminished but still-violent
communist insurgency, weakened by international terrorist
finance sanctions and its aging leadership, may view this as
the best time to cut a peace deal with the government. END
SUMMARY.

NEGOTIATORS ANNOUNCE NEW PEACE TALKS
————————————

¶2. (U) Talks between the government and the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a coalition of
far-left political groups, unions, and others, began in 1992,
but ultimately failed in 2005 because the government refused
the NDFP’s demand that the Philippines seek the removal of
the NDFP member organizations Communist Party of the
Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) from
designation as terrorist organizations, and the NPA refused
to agree to a ceasefire (reftels B and C). However, on July
8 the Philippine government and the NDFP announced their
intention to reconvene peace talks in August in Oslo, Norway.
Both parties said that a joint statement outlining the
August agenda and initial points of agreement would be
released in July, although no such statement has yet emerged.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did, however,
make brief reference to renewed talks in her July 27 State of
the Nation Address (reftel A). These developments follow
June’s informal meetings hosted by the Norwegian government
at the Hague, where the Philippine government agreed to once
again permit the international travel of NDFP negotiators.
NDFP negotiating panel chairman Luis Jalandoni, returning to
Manila July 12 from the Netherlands with special permission
from Philippine authorities to visit an ill relative, told
press that preparations were underway for a resumption of
talks. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose
Marie Sison, exiled in the Netherlands, expressed
satisfaction about the planned resumption of talks, which he
said would focus on “social and economic reforms.”

¶3. (C) Responding to press queries, President Arroyo’s
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that the two sides
had abandoned their preconditions for talks: the Philippine
government will no longer insist on a ceasefire declaration
by the NDFP, and NDFP will not demand Philippine government
support to remove the group from U.S. and E.U. terrorist
lists. Ermita’s statement notwithstanding, NDFP negotiating
panel spokesperson Fidel V. Agcaoli seemed to indicate in a
July 13 statement that the issue of terrorist designations
could still be part of discussions. A forthcoming joint
statement, he said, should assert Filipinos’ “national
sovereignty and territorial integrity over incidents
occurring in the Philippines,” because “foreign governments
have no right to label as terrorism what are deemed as acts
of belligerency in a civil war under International Law.”

GOVERNMENT PANEL CHAIR SEES POLITICS AT PLAY
——————————————–

¶4. (C) In a frank July 14 discussion with emboff, government
negotiating panel chairman Professor Nieves Confesor

MANILA 00001645 002.2 OF 003

(protect) said both sides were eyeing May 2010 national
elections, and likely hoped to score public relations points
with voters. President Arroyo, she noted, vowed to end the
communist and Muslim insurgencies by the end of her term,
and, while that may no longer be possible, some in the
government see an opportunity to break the current deadlock
by opening new talks that may carry over into the next
administration. Confesor said that “anything is possible,
and maybe the talks will achieve a comprehensive peace
agreement.” She cautioned, however, that the Sri Lankan
government’s success against the Tamil Tigers has encouraged
the Arroyo administration’s hawks, who advocate a military
solution. Confesor stated unequivocally that the Philippine
government made no promises to the NDFP other than the
reinstatement of travel immunity to entice their return to
talks; the NPA asked for the release of four imprisoned
members, but the government refused the request. Still,
while peace was the ultimate goal, she emphasized that — no
matter what the outcome of the talks — “the NPA must go.”

NDFP LEADERS SEEK INFLUENCE AND MOVEMENT
—————————————-

¶5. (C) Turning to the motives of the insurgents, Confesor
suggested that NPA founder Jose Sison, who is in the
Netherlands fighting court decisions that have denied his
asylum claim, also wants peace talks to proceed because he is
chafing under the restrictions the terror list designation
imposes on his finances and movements. Sison fervently hopes
that the Philippine government will support his removal from
the list. According to an official at the Office of the
Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process, the talks will
give the NDFP renewed credibility ahead of the 2010
elections, which will provide NPA fighters additional
revenues, as provincial candidates pay extortion fees to the
NPA in exchange for being allowed to campaign safely in
remote areas.

AUGUST TALKS ALL ABOUT “HORSE TRADING”
————————————–

¶6. (C) The Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue’s
Manila director David Gorman (protect) suggested that formal
peace talks would pick up at roughly the same place they left
off in 2004 — that is, with a full plate of unfinished work.
Talks could address social and economic issues, and the
government’s ongoing support for reinstatement of travel
immunity, which Gorman identified as one of the NDFP’s key
goals. While the talks could bring welcome momentum to the
Philippines-NDFP peace process, Gorman likened them to “horse
trading,” where the Philippines, and President Arroyo in
particular, could demonstrate commitment to peace with
communist insurgents, and the NDFP could obtain some freedom
of movement and declare victory for having withstood the
Philippine military’s advances. North Central Mindanao NDF
leader Cesar Renerio struck this theme in a July 11
statement, claiming “The resumption of peace negotiations
between the GRP and the NDFP this coming August confirms that
the AFP has run out of gas against the NPA. This constitutes
one more victory for the people in the struggle for
democracy, justice, and freedom.”

COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) Under UNSC 1267 and other UN Security Council
resolutions, the NPA and its leaders such as Jose Sison have
been badly handicapped financially, diminishing the
organization’s reach. Although the NPA is a much-diminished
organization, now at the lowest point of influence and
strength in its 40-year history, it nonetheless remains a
dangerous guerrilla force to be reckoned with, as illustrated
by its extortion of “revolutionary taxes,” its killing of
government troops, law enforcement officials, and civilians,
and its ability to break its members out of jails. However,
the leadership of the NDFP-CPP-NPA is aging; Jalandoni’s
return to the Philippines was a visit to his elderly dying
sister. Lastly, its tired orthodox communist ideology no
longer holds great appeal to the vast majority of young
Filipinos, putting into question the sustainability of the
NDFP’s “Revolution.” Some in the NDFP-CPP-NPA leadership

MANILA 00001645 003 OF 003

obviously view this as the right time to cut a deal with the
government. Although the basically irreconcilable views of
the government and NPA negotiators always risk sending the
talks off-track, for now, both parties’ measured and cautious
approach offer a meaningful opportunity for engagement and a
real possibility for an eventual peace deal.
KENNEY

   

 

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