Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/02/08MANILA285.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA285
2008-02-01 03:40
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 000285

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2018
TAGS: MARR MOPS PINS PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL OLSON’S VISIT TO THE PHILIPPINES

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

¶1. (SBU) Summary: Admiral Olson, welcome to the
Philippines! You are coming to the Philippines at an
important time. With U.S. support, the Armed Forces of the
Philippines are targeting terrorists on islands in the
southern Philippines, while supporting the government’s
efforts to make peace with Muslim insurgents. Under the
leadership of Philippines Secretary of National Defense
Teodoro and Chief of Staff General Esperon, the Philippines
is fully committed to Defense reform. U.S. Special
Operations Command is an essential partner in our efforts to
defeat terrorism through a combination of hard and soft power
that the Philippines emulates. The Joint Special Operations
Task Force-Philippines is well integrated into overall USG
counterterrorism and development programs. During your visit
you will meet Philippine civilian and military leaders, visit
Philippine Navy Special Operations, and see on the ground in
Mindanao the impact of U.S. military and development
assistance. End Summary.

PHILIPPINE POLITICS
——————-

¶2. (SBU) Philippine politics is free-wheeling, focused
primarily on the charisma of individual political leaders,
and still largely oligarchic, with most wealth and political
power concentrated among influential families. President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the Presidency in 2001 after
a “people power” movement swept out her predecessor, whom she
recently pardoned after he was convicted of corruption. She
is a strong leader who has faced a series of challenges to
her rule, including unsuccessful impeachment efforts and
low-level military coup attempts. The President’s political
position improved after the May 2007 elections gave her
allies a large majority in the House of Representatives,
decreasing any impeachment threat. With less than two and a
half years left in her term, the President appears intent on
establishing her legacy, with a focus on the economy and
jobs, infrastructure, and seeking stability and peace in
Mindanao.

ECONOMICS AND TRADE
——————-

¶3. (U) The U.S. is the Philippines’ largest trading partner,
with over $17.3 billion in two-way merchandise trade. There
is considerable concern over the impact on the Philippines of
a slow down in U.S. economic growth. Major U.S. exports
include electronics and agriculture. The U.S. is also the
largest investor here, with $6.6 billion in equity. In 2007,
Texas Instruments announced further investment of $1 billion
in microchip production, while AES, a U.S. power company,
acquired a coal-fired power plant for $930 million. The
Philippine economy grew about seven 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.

SECURITY AND INSURGENCIES
————————–

¶4. (C) President Arroyo is a committed counterterrorism
partner, and has repeatedly demonstrated her willingness to
work closely with us to combat terrorists who established
themselves in the Philippines during the 1990s. Military and
law enforcement forces scored several major victories in the
counterterrorism fight during the last 18 months, including
the deaths in military operations leaders of the Abu Sayyaf
terrorist group, which has links to international terrorist
organizations and is responsible for the deaths of Americans
and Filipinos alike. In recent military operations,
Philippine troops killed two significant local Abu Sayyaf
commanders in Basilan suspected of involvement in several
terrorist attacks, including an October 2002 bombing that

MANILA 00000285 002 OF 003

killed a U.S. serviceman. Our Rewards for Justice program is
a significant incentive here that worries at-large
terrorists; we recently paid out USD 10 million to informants.

¶5. (C) Success in the government’s peace process with Muslim
insurgents would help deny terrorists safe haven. Currently,
rogue insurgent commanders harbor terrorists, frequently due
to complex clan and family relationships. We are directly
engaged with all peace process players, including the
insurgency’s leadership, to press for the severing of any
remaining ties to the terrorists. The Malaysian-led
International Monitoring Team has helped stabilize the
four-year ceasefire between the Philippine government and the
Muslim insurgents.

¶6. (C) While not the U.S. counterterrorism priority, the
Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army
insurgency, which is unconnected to international terrorism,
remains a virulent nationwide threat. Its ideology and
tactics hold little appeal for the overwhelming majority of
Filipinos, but the movement is fueled by poverty,
insufficient government services, and discontent with the
corruption permeating the political system. The U.S. and
European Union August 2002 designation of the New People’s
Army as a terrorist organization set back its overseas
fundraising efforts. Philippine Armed Forces leaders hope to
redirect assets against the New People’s Army once they
successfully conclude an agreement with Muslim insurgents.

PHILIPPINE DEFENSE REFORM
————————–

¶7. (C) On the eve of the largest U.S.-Philippine exercises
of the year (Balikatan), the Armed Forces of the Philippines
remain heavily engaged in combating internal security threats
while continuing to enhance their limited external defense
capabilities. Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro
has taken personal control of Philippine Defense Reform, and
the Philippine government plans to spend about USD 100
million annually through 2012 funding defense reform
initiatives. The Philippines is already realizing positive
effects from these efforts including improved operational
readiness through better maintenance. At the same time, they
have promoted transparency in their procurement system, which
has allowed them to expand their combat capability. In
particular, the purchase and granting of U.S. helicopters to
the Philippines has proven helpful in improving the
military’s mobility. Long term, the defense reform program
will modernize 72 Philippine Army and 12 Philippine Marine
Corps battalions over the next six years.

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

¶8. (SBU) Extrajudicial killings remains 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
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.

¶9. (U) 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.

THEMES:
KEEP UP COUNTERTERRORISM FIGHT, PDR, AND RULE OF LAW
——————————————— ——-

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

MANILA 00000285 003 OF 003

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

— 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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