Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/02/08MANILA443.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA443
2008-02-21 04:50
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO3218
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0443/01 0520450
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 210450Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9821
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 000443

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2018
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. (SBU) SUMMARY: Admiral, welcome back to the Philippines!
You will find the political atmosphere in the usual state of
ferment, with President Arroyo still in firm control, in part
due to continued strong economic growth. We have been
working hard to counter the efforts of a vocal minority to
oppose the Balikatan exercises, and so far events in Mindanao
and Luzon have been carried out successfully, without any
significant incidents. 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 and Chief of Staff General Esperon
are taking more active control of defense reform, with
positive results. During your visit you will meet Philippine
civilian and military leaders and visit a Balikatan
civil-military operations event where U.S. and Philippine
Marines are working together to rebuild a school. END
SUMMARY.

———
BALIKATAN
———

¶2. (C) As we have discussed, we have worked actively to
ensure Balikatan goes smoothly. While a vocal minority of
political and social leaders has sought to gain political
capital by mischaracterizing Balikatan as a hostile military
exercise aimed at the people of Mindanao, all Embassy
elements have mounted a quick and effective response. To
counter misperceptions in the southern Philippines, we have
engaged a wide array of politicians, community leaders, and
individuals involved in the peace process, emphasizing that
no military exercises will take place in Mindanao or the Sulu
Archipelago; that all activities in these regions will be
humanitarian in nature; and that the U.S. personnel who are
participating will work alongside their Philippine
counterparts at all times. We have also strongly urged
Philippine government and armed forces leaders to take a more
aggressive leadership role in coordinating with local
political and religious leaders.

¶3. (C) So far, there have been no significant demonstrations
or security incidents at any of the Balikatan sites on
Mindanao or elsewhere, and I received a very warm welcome at
the medical civil action event I attended on Jolo February
¶19. Elsewhere in the Philippines, planning for the field
training and staff exercises has gone well, and we are
expecting a successful series of events in Luzon as our two
militaries partner on both operational and humanitarian
assistance activities. The civil-military activities that
will be conducted in Palawan by the U.S and Philippine
Marines are enjoying strong local support. The outreach blitz
appears to have garnered the support of several Muslim
decisionmakers, but we will continue our efforts through the
duration of Balikatan.

PHILIPPINE POLITICS
——————-

¶4. (SBU) Philippine politics remains unsettled, with
President Gloria Arroyo’s administration facing renewed
charges of corruption. Still, 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 yet been
strong mass support for regime change in the vein of the
“people power” movements of the past.

ECONOMICS AND TRADE
——————-

¶5. (C) One 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

MANILA 00000443 002 OF 003

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
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 7 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.
The Philippine Armed Forces recently recovered the suspected
remains of Bali bomber and Jemaah Islamiyah leader Dulmatin.
FBI agents are assisting Philippine National Police in the
forensic examinations and DNA analysis, which will take
several weeks. Whatever the outcome of the results from the
DNA tests, it will be important to ensure that the Philippine
government has the opportunity to announce the results first,
given their command of the antiterrorism efforts here.
Separately, Philippine forces also scored a confirmed hit
against Jemaah Islamiyah when they arrested Jemaah Islamiyah
member Latif in Mindanao.

¶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 viable possibility, though
difficult negotiations on governance and revenue sharing
remain. It is clear from my 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 February 20
with MILF Chairman Murad at his headquarters outside Cotabato
and emphasized our support for the peace process.

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. Since he has taken over, the Philippines and
U.S. have implemented a major Foreign Military Sales case for
8,000 Harris radios worth $91 million, the largest FMS case
in Philippine history. This and other purchases and reform
efforts are improving operational readiness through improved
maintenance and greater transparency in the procurement
system.

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 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. By the end of 2007, these steps, as well as
intensified domestic and international attention to the

MANILA 00000443 003 OF 003

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
Amendments.

SUGGESTED THEMES
—————-

¶10. (SBU) In your meetings with Philippine officials, I
suggest you stress the following themes:

— The Philippines is a strong and valued partner in
counterterrorism efforts;

— At the invitation of the Philippine government, U.S.
forces are here during Balikatan to assist the Armed Forces
of the Philippines. They bring healthcare and build
necessary infrastructure in poor communities. Our forces
train and work together because we have a deep shared history
and mutual obligations.

— Congratulations on recent successes in the fight against
terrorists, and commendations to those brave Filipinos who
provided information leading to these successful military
operations;

— We are committed to helping sustain the momentum in
Philippine counterterrorism efforts by assisting with
military and humanitarian offensives;

— We are following the peace process with great interest as
it moves forward. We fully support the government’s desire
for a durable peace agreement. We believe it is important to
keep open communications with those willing to discuss peace.

— We take the issue of extra-judicial killings seriously.
Suspects need to be apprehended and tried. We are encouraged
by steps the Philippine government has taken to eliminate
this problem, and we support the ongoing efforts to promote a
culture of democratic security that protects everyone;

— Philippine Defense Reform is transforming the Armed Forces
of the Philippines into a more modern, capable force. We are
proud to be partners in this program.

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

   

 

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