Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/07/08MANILA1758.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1758
2008-07-23 08:18
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO3944
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1758/01 2050818
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 230818Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1379
RHOVQHS/COMSEVENTHFLT IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001758

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2018
TAGS: MARR MOPS PINS PREL RP
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL BIRD’S VISIT TO THE PHILIPPINES

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

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Admiral Bird, welcome back to the
Philippines! The U.S. 7th Fleet is an important player in
our interagency engagement to promote U.S. interests in the
Philippines. The Philippine Armed Forces continue to score
successes against terrorists in the southern Philippines,
even as it reforms itself and controls extrajudicial killings
— all with U.S. help. The Philippine government is moving
forward dramatically its peace process with Muslim
insurgents, separating them from terrorists, with U.S.
support. The political situation is never dull, especially
as the country looks towards presidential elections in 2010,
but we expect President Arroyo to finish her term without
major incidents. During your visit, you will be briefed by
the Mission Country Team and will go aboard the USS STOCKHAM.
END SUMMARY.

——————-
MILITARY ENGAGEMENT
——————-

¶2. (C) We are very pleased with the increase in U.S. ship
visits — from 56 in 2006 to 81 in 2007 — and we anticipate
in excess of 120 ship visits this year, which has included
the USS BLUE RIDGE in May. The positive impact of these ship
visits and the associated community-relations activities in
the ports and neighboring areas garner immense goodwill among
the local populace. Last month, the USS REAGAN carrier group
played a hugely successful role in providing humanitarian
assistance to typhoon-stricken areas of central Philippines.
Its presence in the area did much to reemphasize the
long-standing ties between the United States and the
Philippines. The Country Team and I carefully track planned
ship visits for maximum positive impact and to avoid
overwhelming any regions of the Philippines. We also take
great care to work with our Navy colleagues to avoid any
incidents that a vocal minority here would use to undermine
our strong military to military relationship.

——————-
PHILIPPINE POLITICS
——————-

¶3. (C) The Philippine political environment is always
tumultuous, but President Arroyo retains a firm grip on the
House of Representatives and can also rely on the unwavering
support of a large majority of provincial governors and local
mayors. Her relationship with top security officials
likewise remains strong, and military and police personnel
have largely kept out of political debates and stayed focused
on their security roles. While there have been some
demonstrations, President Arroyo remains poised to finish her
term in 2010.

——————-
ECONOMICS AND TRADE
——————-

¶4. (C) Philippine GDP grew by 7.3% in 2007, the fastest pace
of growth in over three decades. Growth was fueled by
increased government and private construction expenditures, a
robust information and communications-technology industry;
improved agricultural harvests; and strong private
consumption, spurred in part by $14.4 billion in remittances
from overseas workers (equivalent to about 11% of GDP).
Record economic growth and an improved image moved the
Philippines up five places to 40th in the latest World
Competitiveness Yearbook rankings, its best performance since
it joined the listing over a decade ago. According to the
April 2008 Social Weather Survey, Filipinos’ self-assessed
proficiency in the English language has recovered in the past
two years after a decline over the previous 12 years. GDP
growth is expected to slow in 2008, but still reach between
5-6%. The main engine of growth will be private consumption.
This will be supported by inflows of remittances, which
continue to experience strong growth. President Arroyo has
an impressive reform agenda — privatizing the electric power
sector, building infrastructure, increasing education
funding, and reducing business red tape — but still faces
significant hurdles, particularly in improving the investment
climate. The U.S. remains the Philippines’ largest trading
partner, with over $17.1 billion in two-way merchandise trade
in 2007.

MANILA 00001758 002 OF 003

——————————————— —————
MINDANAO: SECURITY, THE PEACE PROCESS, AND COUNTER TERRORISM
——————————————— —————

¶5. (C) Military forces and law enforcement officials
continue to achieve important successes in counterterrorism
efforts; the government has announced the death or capture of
eight key terrorist leaders and over 200 other terrorism
suspects since August 2006, including the deaths of Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG) leaders Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu
Solaiman. Recently, Philippine Forces mounted surgical
strikes against a known terrorist camps in Jolo that had
served as a safe havens for ASG and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)
members for almost two years.

¶6. (C) Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process Hermogenes
Esperon (and former Chief of the Armed Forces) just announced
that the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to a chapter on territory for
a new Muslim political entity — a key issue in facilitating
a comprehensive peace plan between the government and the
MILF. This new agreement is expected to be signed by early
August and will signal the beginning of formal talks for a
pact that addresses governance and security in the troubled
region of Mindanao. President Arroyo now supports the
postponement of local elections, a Muslim insurgent request,
to make way for the Mindanao peace process. Progress on the
peace progress has historically led to less violence and less
cooperation between insurgent commanders and terrorists.

¶7. (C) U.S. counterterrorism strategy in the region focuses
on separating the small numbers of terrorists primarily
associated with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaah
Islamiyah (JI) from Muslim insurgents in the southern
Philippines who seek only autonomy from Manila. Thirty-nine
years after its founding as the armed wing of the Philippine
Communist Party, the 5,000-strong New People’s Army (NPA)
continues to disrupt public security and business operations
with intermittent attacks, primarily in Mindanao, targeting
foreign companies, communications networks, and
transportation infrastructure in order to fund their
operations through broad-scale extortion rings. While the
NPA continues to decline in personnel and effectiveness, it
remains steadfast in its refusal to accept President Arroyo’s
broad amnesty overtures, turning down offers to negotiate
unless and until its international designation as a terrorist
organization is rescinded.

————————-
PHILIPPINE DEFENSE REFORM
————————-

¶8. (C) In an encouraging sign of deepening support for the
ongoing armed forces overhaul, Secretary of National Defense
Gilberto Teodoro took personal control of Philippine Defense
Reform last November, and has been keen to accelerate the
program. The Philippine government plans to spend about USD
100 million annually through 2012 to fund defense reform
initiatives. To date, the Philippines has spent over $400
million on defense reform, including $28 million to match
U.S. foreign military financing. Teodoro is personally
involved in the process down to the working level, and is
currently putting his own personnel into key positions of
authority.

——————————-
UNLAWFUL/EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS
——————————-

¶9. (C) Extrajudicial killings remain one of the thorniest
issues for the Arroyo administration, with critics charging
that rogue elements of the Philippine police and military are
responsible for some killings. President Arroyo has spoken
out consistently and strongly on the issue, including during
the State of the Nation address, and has taken a variety of
steps to address the problem, such as the creation of — or
strengthening of existing — government task forces and
commissions. By the end of 2007, these steps, as well as
intensified domestic and international attention to the
problem, appeared to have had a measurable impact, with
government agencies and human rights NGOs reporting a
significant decline in the number of extrajudicial killings
during the year. The Embassy carefully vets all proposed
military and law enforcement personnel about to receive

MANILA 00001758 003 OF 003

U.S.-funded training both internally and with relevant
Philippine authorities to comply with the terms of the Leahy
Amendments. The Mission is currently working with Department
of Justice officials regarding prosecutorial assistance to
ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
KENNEY

   

 

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