Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/05/08MANILA1188.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1188
2008-05-19 03:57
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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O 190357Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0734
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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 001188

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS
USPACOM ALSO FOR FPA
SECDEF/OSD/ISA/AP FOR TOLAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2018
TAGS: MARR MOPS PINS PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL CROWDER’S VISIT TO THE PHILIPPINES

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

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Admiral, welcome back to the Philippines!
President Arroyo maintains her strong political position, in
part due to robust economic growth. The Philippine armed
forces continue to score successes against terrorists in the
southern Philippines, while supporting the Philippine
government’s efforts to make peace with Muslim insurgents.
Philippine Defense Secretary Teodoro has taken active control
of defense reform, with positive results. On May 12, 2008
General Alexander Yano became the 38th Chief of Staff of the
Philippine Armed Services, replacing General Hermogenes
Esperon. During your visit you will meet General Yano, the
Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command ADM Rogelio Calunsag,
and other civilian and military leaders. I look forward to
the reception aboard the USS BLUE RIDGE May 22, and a
wonderful evening with a number of invited Philippine
government officials and guests. END SUMMARY.

——————-
MILITARY ENGAGEMENT
——————-

¶2. (C) The arrival of the Blue Ridge has been eagerly
anticipated by the Philippine Navy. As you know, the total
number of ships has significantly increased — from 56 in
2006 to 81 in 2007 — and we anticipate in excess of 100 ship
visits this year. The 7th Fleet will conduct staff talks
with their Philippine Navy counterparts, which will be held
on USS BLUE RIDGE upon her arrival. The talks appear to have
garnered full support of the Philippine military and we will
continue our planning efforts to ensure success of this
meaningful event.

¶3. (C) We are also looking forward to the return visit of the
USNS MERCY to the Philippines from May 29 to June 17. The
Mission continues to be actively engaged with various
Philippine ministries, provincial officials, and local
leaders to ensure a successful and productive visit. Our
recent travel to Mindanao is just one way we have
pro-actively engaged local leaders as a way of gaining their
support for the USNS MERCY visit. We will have the opening
ceremony in Mindanao May 30, closing ceremony in Samar
Province June 14, and will complete her visit to the
Philippines with a pier side reception in Manila June 16,
accompanied by community relations events.

——————-
PHILIPPINE POLITICS
——————-

¶4. (SBU) Philippine politics remains unsettled, with
President Gloria Arroyo’s administration having weathered
several charges of corruption. She retains a firm grip on
the House of Representatives, where she orchestrated the
removal of the former Speaker of the House in favor of
another political ally, and can still count on the support of
a large majority of provincial governors and local mayors.
Her relationship with top security officials also remains
strong, as evidenced by their recent reminders to military
and police personnel to stay out of political debates and
stay focused on their security roles. Moreover, the public
may be suffering from scandal fatigue, as there has not been
strong mass support for regime change in the vein of the
“people power” movements of the past.

——————-
ECONOMICS AND TRADE
——————-

¶5. (C) A bright spot remains the continued growth of the
Philippine economy, which grew over 7 percent in 2007, the
strongest expansion in three decades. Unemployment and
inflation are down, and government revenues are up, even in
the face of rising fuel prices, continued corruption
allegations, terrorist bombings, and political tumult.
President Arroyo has an impressive reform agenda — privatize
the electric sector, build infrastructure, increase education
funding, and reduce business red tape — but still faces
significant hurdles, particularly in improving the investment
climate. There is also considerable concern over the impact

MANILA 00001188 002 OF 003

of a slowdown in U.S. economic growth, as the U.S. remains
the Philippines’ largest trading partner, with over $17.3
billion in two-way merchandise trade, and largest investor,
with $6.6 billion in equity.

—————————————-
MINDANAO: SECURITY AND THE PEACE PROCESS
—————————————-

¶6. (C) Military and law enforcement forces continue to
achieve important successes in the counterterrorism efforts,
which the government said have resulted in 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 leaders Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman.
Recently, Philippine Forces mounted a surgical strike
against a known terrorist camp in Jolo that had served as a
safe haven for Abu Sayaff Group and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)
members for almost two years. Philippine forces also scored
a confirmed hit against JI when they arrested the bomb maker
Latif in Mindanao in February.

¶7. (SBU) The government continues its efforts to work out a
comprehensive peace agreement with the insurgent Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF), even as it seeks to fully implement
its 1996 deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
While progress on both tracks is fitful, a peace deal this
year with the MILF still appears a possibility, though
difficult negotiations on governance and revenue sharing
remain. It is clear from our discussions with both
government and insurgent leaders that all sides recognize the
importance of an enduring peace for the long-term prosperity
of Mindanao. At President Arroyo’s suggestion, I met with
MILF Chairman Murad in February at his headquarters outside
Cotabato and emphasized our support for the peace process.
President Arroyo just announced that former Chief of Staff
General Esperon will become the new cabinet-level secretary
responsible for peace processes with both Muslim insurgents
and with the Communist New People’s Army.

————————-
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 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 the killings. President Arroyo has spoken
out consistently and strongly on the issue, including during
the State of the Union 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. During his swearing-in ceremony, newly
appointed Philippine military Chief of Staff General
Alexander Yano unambiguously stated his commitment to
upholding the rule of law, “even in the face of the fiercest
battles.” 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
U.S.-funded training both internally and with relevant
Philippine authorities to comply with the terms of the Leahy

MANILA 00001188 003 OF 003

Amendments. The Mission is currently working with Department
of Justice officials regarding prosecutorial assistance to
ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/
KENNEY

   

 

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