Oct 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/05/08MANILA1108.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1108
2008-05-08 08:57
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

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DE RUEHML #1108/01 1290857
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 080857Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0638
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUENAAA/SECNAV WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001108

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: PREPARING FOR MERCY DEPLOYMENT IN LANAO DEL NORTE

REF: A. MANILA 885 (Laying Groundwork for MERCY Deployment)
¶B. MANILA 893 (Balikatan Exercises)

¶1. (U) Summary: During an April 28 visit to Iligan City and Lanao
del Norte province in the southern Philippines, Embassy officers and
a U.S. Navy planner consulted with senior Philippine civil and
military officials regarding the upcoming visit of USNS MERCY.
Polcouns highlighted the importance of the MERCY visit to the
U.S.-Philippine partnership and the hospital ship’s goal of helping
bring peace and prosperity to this conflict-affected area. Local
officials were grateful for the planned MERCY visit and the
opportunity to share their thoughts on the proposed medical
missions. End Summary.

¶2. (U) As part of a continuing outreach effort by Mission personnel
to lay the groundwork for a smooth USNS MERCY visit in Mindanao
(reftel A), Polcouns, Defense Attache and MERCY planner met April 28
with Lanao del Norte Governor Muhammad Khalid Dimaporo, Iligan City
Mayor Lawrence Cruz and Police Director Virgilio Ranes, and local
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) commander Col. Antonio Supnet.

¶3. (U) Polcouns thanked the officials and AFP for their efforts to
make the MERCY visit a success. He emphasized that the MERCY’s May
29-June 14 visit reflected the friendship between our countries and
the importance of partnerships with Philippine national and local
government officials, NGOs, and community organizations. He
stressed the humanitarian nature of the mission and its goal of
providing medical care to thousands of Filipinos. He also expressed
the hope that the MERCY visit would play a positive role in bringing
peace and prosperity to Mindanao.

¶4. (SBU) Lanao del Norte Governor Dimaporo voiced strong enthusiasm
for the MERCY visit and asked that a medical team be sent to his
provincial capital, Tubod, not just Iligan city proper. The
governor expressed confidence that Lanao del Norte residents were
likewise enthusiastic about the visit and said he did not expect the
kind of anti-U.S. demonstrations that marked the arrival of
humanitarian teams in neighboring Lanao del Sur during the recent
Balikatan exercises (reftel B). The governor pointed out that
Iligan City is an independent, chartered city that functions very
separately from the rest of Lanao del Norte, and he wanted to ensure
that a wide spectrum of constituents benefited directly from the
MERCY’s visit. The governor promised to provide crowd control and
security for a medical team and use of the Mindanao Civic Center if
medical mission took place there.

¶5. (SBU) Dimaporo, the country’s youngest governor, described the
close ties between President Gloria Arroyo and his prominent
political family (his father is a sitting Congressman, and both his
father and mother served as governor). He outlined the political
dispute between his province and Iligan City over congressional
boundaries and representation, saying that his mother lost a bitter
campaign for a congressional seat because of Iligan City’s
encroachment. Dimaporo lamented his province’s relative poverty,
saying he planned to focus on increasing tourism and on improving
education so more residents could go overseas to earn foreign
currency.

¶6. (SBU) Iligan City Mayor Cruz also welcomed the MERCY’s visit,
both for the immediate benefits to his city’s neediest residents and
for the symbolic message that the city is safe for investment and
development. Mayor Cruz stressed that Iligan is a safe city –
noting that 16 of 22 provincial mayors in the area have their homes
in Iligan and commute to work in their constituencies every day –
but the city’s hospital is overcrowded, and the area’s image as a
conflict zone makes it more difficult to attract outside investment.
The Mayor expressed the strong belief that the MERCY’s visit would
help ameliorate the hospital’s problems in the short term and
improve the city’s image with outside investors in the long run.

¶7. (SBU) Iligan City Police Director Ranes, and Colonel Antonio
Supnet, commander of the Philippine Army’s local Task Force Tabak,
concurred that there was widespread support for the MERCY’s mission.
They reinforced the view that the general peace and stability
situation in Lanao del Norte was good, and that the medical teams
from MERCY would be welcomed. Like Mayor Cruz, both said that they
have been talking to local village officials to inform them of the
MERCY’s purpose and capabilities.

¶8. (SBU) On a broader note, Col. Supnet said his task force,
recently relocated from the island of Jolo where it played a more
direct combat role in the Philippines’ counterterrorism efforts, had
to make adjustments in Lanao del Norte. Some of his men were former
Muslim insurgents from Jolo who had integrated into the AFP, and
were now separated from their families still on the island. His

MANILA 00001108 002 OF 002

troops also had to adjust their attitude in dealing with armed
insurgents. On Jolo, the governor had banned the carrying of
weapons in public, making it easier for the AFP to patrol. In Lanao
del Norte, however, insurgents traveled across the province with
weapons in plain view, posing a more visible challenge to AFP
authority, though in fact direct conflict seemed less likely in
Lanao del Norte.

¶9. (SBU) Comment: Iligan and Lanao del Norte present striking
political, economic, and social contrasts. Iligan is an
industrialized, overwhelmingly Christian enclave bordering rural,
predominantly Muslim Lanao del Norte. Still, discussions in both
places indicate very strong support for the MERCY’s proposed
missions. MERCY planners are examining the feasibility of Governor
Dimaporo’s request for a medical team to visit his provincial
capital, in addition to stopping in Iligan city. End Comment.

   

 

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