Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/06/09MANILA1261.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1261
2009-06-11 09:15
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4362
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001261

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/11/2019
TAGS: MOPS PGOV PINR PTER RP
SUBJECT: RECENT OPERATIONS UNDERSCORE PHILIPPINE MILITARY’S PRIORITIES

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Senior Philippine officials have recently
emphasized to the Ambassador and other Mission officials that
the military has been tasked with showing measurable progress
against internal security threats over the next year, and
that “a sense of urgency” must be communicated throughout the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to achieve tangible
results. The AFP will focus its efforts on three key
security threats: rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
forces in Central Mindanao, kidnap-for-ransom gangs operating
in the southern Philippines, and the New People’s Army (NPA)
in certain areas. While recent military operations against
all three groups have been successful, shortages of
ammunition and other resources pose a significant challenge
for continued gains by the AFP. As they press forward with
engaging internal security threats, the AFP leadership have
said they would like to explore some flexibility in the
U.S.-Philippine schedule of bilateral exercises over the next
year, in order to ensure adequate participation by AFP
forces. Over the last two weeks, the AFP carried out
coordinated air and ground assaults against rogue MILF camps
in Maguindanao Province that killed or wounded dozens of
rogue MILF fighters, and engaged a group of kidnappers that
have been operating on the island of Basilan, killing the
group’s leader and several members. These successfully
coordinated offensives illustrate the Philippine military’s
ability to mount aggressive operations, while limiting
civilian casualties. However, the international community
remains concerned over the number of persons displaced in
Mindanao by fighting there between the AFP and MILF. The
Philippine government has emphasized its intent to minimize
the civilian impact in all military operations, and has said
it remains committed to an early return to peace negotiations
with the MILF. END SUMMARY.

——————————————— ——
“SENSE OF URGENCY” FOR INTERNAL SECURITY OPERATIONS
——————————————— ——

¶2. (C) In a June 5 breakfast, Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Victor Ibrado told
the Ambassador that President Arroyo had renewed her
directive to the military to step up operations against
internal security threats, specifically, rogue Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) forces in Central Mindanao,
kidnap-for-ransom gangs operating in the southern
Philippines, and New People’s Army (NPA) fronts in southern
Mindanao and the Visayas region. Separately, Secretary of
National Defense Gilberto Teodoro has said recently that the
Arroyo administration is running out of time to deliver on
promises to end insurgent activities by May 2010, when
President Arroyo’s term expires, and that he believed the AFP
had to maintain a high operational tempo over the next year
to achieve some “demonstrable results.”

¶3. (C) Ibrado said the “sense of urgency” in the AFP has
caused the military leadership to look closely at the robust
U.S-Philippine schedule of events to determine what personnel
resources the Philippines will need to make available,
particularly with regard to bilateral exercises such as
Balikatan, Talon/PHIBLEX, and Combined Afloat Readiness and
Training (CARAT). Given the demands of the Philippine
internal security operations, Ibrado has signaled his intent
to request that the August 2009 Mutual Defense Board/Security
Engagement Board Executive Committee meetings be held in
Manila instead of Honolulu to ensure high-level Philippine
participation. The AFP also has voiced their desire for
flexibility in the U.S-Philippine bilateral exercise
schedule, to allow Philippine forces to be adequately
involved. Compounding the AFP’s personnel constraints are
shortages in ammunition and other equipment, which could
hamper offensive operations. The Mission is working with AFP
counterparts to explore options that could assist in
alleviating some of the resource shortfalls.

——————————————— –
PHILIPPINE MILITARY ATTACKING MULTIPLE TARGETS
——————————————— –

¶4. (C) Responding to President Arroyo’s directive, in the
last week, the Philippine military has conducted aggressive
operations against rogue commanders of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) who have killed civilians and
destroyed villages in provinces throughout central and
southern Mindanao since the breakdown of peace talks in

MANILA 00001261 002 OF 003

August 2008. The AFP said that the Philippine Air Force had
bombarded rebel camps in the southern Mindanao province of
Maguindanao with precision air strikes on June 7, killing and
wounding “scores” of MILF rebels located in the camps. This
operation was part of well-coordinated AFP ground and air
attacks against MILF strongholds, including camps of rebel
MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato. The Philippine military
has been pursuing Kato since August 2008, when he led attacks
on civilian communities in North Cotabato Province.

¶5. (C) On June 8, the Philippine military reported that two
additional MILF rebel camps in Maguindanao Province were also
captured. The Philippine military reported these camps,
which were within five kilometers of the main highway in
Maguindanao, were used to manufacture bombs and weapons. A
total of 29 improvised explosive devices were discovered when
the AFP overran the two camps. The military maintains that
its persistent operations against rogue MILF commanders and
their fighters have made them more vulnerable, as they have
been forced to abandon their traditional safehavens and move
from location to location. Many of these former MILF
safehavens were considered classic guerrilla bases —
well-concealed, supported with multiple fighting positions,
and outfitted with dedicated living facilities.
Additionally, prior to the outbreak of hostilities last
August, the vast majority of these camps had been off limits
to the AFP under the terms of a cease-fire agreement between
the Philippine government and the MILF.

¶6. (C) In late May, combined Philippine forces engaged a
kidnap-for-ransom group operating on Basilan island in the
Sulu Archipelago. After Philippine officials had secured the
release of hostages, military personnel attacked the
kidnappers’ camp, killing the group’s leader and several gang
members. Kidnapping continues to be a source of revenue for
criminal and terrorist organizations in the Philippines, and
the success of the Basilan operation indicates the AFP has
made the decision to use force to try to neutralize the
kidnapping organizations, although the safety of the victims
remains a priority.

—————————-
CONFLICT DISPLACES CIVILIANS
—————————-

¶7. (C) While operations conducted by the Philippine military
against rogue MILF fighters in Mindanao have for the most
part been disciplined and measured, the terrorizing of local
civilians and destruction of villages by rogue MILF elements
that began in 2008 has displaced thousands of civilians in
areas of central and southern Mindanao. At one point, the
estimated number of internally displaced persons was
estimated to be as high as 500,000. With the support of
international and local relief agencies, the displaced
civilians have received food and shelter in government-run
camps in Mindanao. According to recent figures, the
Philippine Department of Social Welfare estimates the number
of displaced civilians living inside and outside the camps at
around 250,000 persons. But the Philippine government has
voiced concern to international aid groups that their food
and medical assistance is being diverted from the main aid
target groups — women and children — to relatives and
friends who are MILF fighters. In a recent meeting,
Secretary of Social Welfare and Development speranza Cabral
and Secretary Teodoro called togther key aid groups and
suggested that they beginwinding down the feeding programs
for IDPs, whic they suggested were aiding insurgents.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) General Ibrado and Scretary Teodoro see opportunity
in President Arryo’s directive to achieve results against
the varous internal security threats before her term ends
next year. During his tenure as head of CentralCommand in
the Visayas, Ibrado enjoyed success i dismantling a large
number of NPA fronts in theregion. In its campaign against
rogue insurgent ommanders, the Philippine military continues
to egrade the MILF’s military capability, a stated gol of
Teodoro and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno Meanwhile,
eliminating the kidnapping threat adresses the concerns of a
wide array of local citzens, as even farmers and fishermen
have become targets of kidnap gangs. The Philippine
government has repeatedly stated that it prefers peace over
conflict. But recent successes on the battlefield may well

MANILA 00001261 003 OF 003

have reinforced more conservative Cabinet members who argue
that, should peace talks be resumed, the MILF may find itself
in a weaker bargaining position now that its capacity to
conduct military operations has been materially diminished by
the Philippine military’s successful operations.
KENNEY

   

 

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