Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/09/08MANILA2202.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2202
2008-09-23 09:36
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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DE RUEHML #2202/01 2670936
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 230936Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1897
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002202

SIPDIS

PACOM FOR ADMIRAL KEATING
STATE FOR EAP/MTS
USPACOM ALSO FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2018
TAGS: MARR MOPS PINS PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING’S VISIT TO THE PHILIPPINES

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

¶1. (C) Admiral Keating, welcome back to the Philippines!
You are returning at a challenging time. The situation in
central Mindanao remains tense but controlled. The
Philippine armed forces (AFP) continue a targeted search for
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders who carried
out savage attacks on civilian communities last month. The
fighting and subsequent flooding have forced up to 500,000
people from their homes. The peace process remains stalled
pending a Supreme Court decision on a key territorial
agreement. Our wide soundings indicate that the government
and top MILF leadership are committed to negotiations, if
unsure of the exact way forward. While there have been no
major military engagements for the past two weeks, the
Philippine government is braced for a possible upsurge in
attacks at the end of Ramadan.

SCRUTINIZING U.S.-PHILIPPINE MILITARY TIES
——————————————

¶2. (C) President Arroyo was confident enough about the
situation to travel to New York this week for the UN General
Assembly, despite demands from opponents for her ouster over
the peace deal. U.S. diplomatic and military efforts in
Mindanao have come under intense scrutiny from the same
political quarters and a media skeptical of U.S. intentions,
leading to renewed calls for closer examination both of the
role of U.S. forces in the southern Philippines and the terms
of our Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). This scrutiny
coincided with a Supreme Court hearing last week on the rape
case of Marine LCpl Daniel Smith, which evolved into a
broader discussion of the constitutionality of the VFA.
Philippine legislators are also showing increased interest,
with a Senate oversight committee debate on the VFA slated
for September 25, the day you arrive.

¶3. (C) The intense focus on the VFA, along with a flurry of
media articles contending that the U.S. seeks a permanent
military presence here — or even an independent Mindanao —
underscore the sensitivity surrounding the U.S.-Philippine
military relationship at this time, and I expect these issues
will surface at events during your visit. In numerous
high-level discussions and public comments on both the
Mindanao situation and our military role, I have of course
debunked the idea that we have an interest in bases or a
permanent military presence. I have also underscored that a
peaceful Mindanao is essential for a prosperous, unified
Philippines, and that it is vital for the Philippine
government and MILF to return as quickly as possible to the
negotiating table, but that it is for Filipinos to determine
the shape and terms of the peace accord. The issue has
abated somewhat as potential candidates for the 2010 election
launched personal attacks on one another over the weekend,
but I expect this to remain an issue of serious concern for
the near future.

STRONG PUBLIC DEFENSE
———————

¶4. (C) With our encouragement, Defense Secretary Teodoro and
other top officials have strongly defended our efforts here,
and I expect you will have very positive discussions with
Teodoro on our excellent cooperation on Philippine defense
reform and JSOTF’s superb support for their AFP counterparts.
Secretary Teodoro remains a strong ally on bilateral
military cooperation, and a staunch advocate of rapid reform
(the Philippines spent nearly $250 million on PDR last year).
In his usual hands-on style, he recently postponed the
annual Philippine Defense Reform review slated for October,
as he was dissatisfied with the level of preparation by his
team. The demands on the Philippine military and renewed
scrutiny of our military presence have led Secretary Teodoro
to scale back some recent bilateral activities and suggest a
more streamlined Military Defense Board event, with a limited
media profile. Still, we are looking forward to the
Talon/Phiblex exercises next month, and to a continued
increase in joint exercises and ship visits.

HELPING HAND FOR MINDANAO
————————-

¶5. (C) We remain very concerned about the humanitarian
situation in central Mindanao due to both flooding and

MANILA 00002202 002 OF 002

conflict. While exact figures are difficult to verify, upper
estimates put the number of displaced persons at 500,000.
Foreign aid donors have given approximately $2 million to aid
the refugees, including $100,000 from USAID. Reports suggest
that the health situation — clean water, sanitation, shelter
— is deteriorating for many of the displaced persons, and we
are sending down an AID assessment team to determine whether
an additional infusion of aid is needed. Depending on how
the situation develops, we may wish to consider whether U.S.
humanitarian assistance could include a U.S. military role,
both for the help it could render to refugees as well as the
positive image of U.S. forces it could reinforce, much as
happened during the Reagan carrier group’s typhoon relief
effort in late June.

WEATHERING GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISES
———————————

¶6. (SBU) The general economic mood in the Philippines is one
of quiet relief, as Philippine banks and investors had little
exposure to the high-profile financial failures of recent
weeks. At the same time, consumers have gotten a few breaks,
as the rice shortage of May has turned into a rice glut, and
prices of fuel have dropped with the fall in oil. In
addition, a resilient service sector and strong overseas
workers remittances (expected to hit $16 billion in 2008,
more than 11 percent of Philippine GDP) improved the overall
situation. But a year of rising global commodity prices has
taken a toll. Growth in the gross domestic product is
expected to drop several points to around 5 percent in 2008,
and inflation rose to a 17-year high of 12.5 percent in
August, pushing even more Filipinos below the poverty level.
KENNEY

   

 

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