Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/08/08MANILA1960.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1960
2008-08-15 10:56
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO1591
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1960/01 2281056
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151056Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1631
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001960

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS
USPACOM ALSO FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2018
TAGS: MARR MOPS PINS PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR LTG MAPLES VISIT TO THE PHILIPPINES

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

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Welcome to the Philippines! You are coming
to the Philippines at an important time. With U.S. support,
the Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to score
successes against terrorists in the southern Philippines,
even as it reforms itself and controls extrajudicial
killings. The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) are continuing efforts to work
towards a comprehensive peace agreement. Last week, the
Armed Forces scored a significant military success against
rogue elements of the MILF driving them from villages they
had illegally occupied in central Mindanao. During your
visit, you will be briefed by the Mission Country Team, meet
with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto
Teodoro, and senior members of the Philippine Armed Forces.
You will also visit the American Cemetery in Manila, and will
fly to Camp Navaro in Zamboanga to receive a briefing by the
U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.

——————–
PHILIPPINES 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 May 2007 elections gave her allies a
large majority in the House of Representatives, decreasing
any impeachment threat. With two 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 $17.1 billion in two-way merchandise trade in 2007.
Major U.S. exports include electronics and agriculture. The
U.S. is also the largest investor here, with $6.6 billion in
equity. The Philippine economy 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). GDP growth is expected to
slow in 2008, but still reach between 5-6%. 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 Stations survey, Filipinos, self-assessed
proficiency in the English language has recovered in the past
two years after a decline over the previous 12 years.
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 to improving the investment climate.

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

¶4. (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. Recently, Philippine Forces
mounted surgical strikes against known terrorist camps in
Jolo that had served as safe-havens for Abu Sayyaf Group and
Jemaah Islamiyah members for several years.

¶5. (C) In mid-July, Presidential Advisor on the Peace

MANILA 00001960 002 OF 003

Process Hermogenes Esperon (and former Chief of the Armed
Forces) announced that the Philippine government and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to draft territorial
arrangements for a new Muslim political entity — a key issue
in facilitating a comprehensive peace plan between the
government and the MILF. However, the Philippine Supreme
Court issued a restraining order temporarily halting the
formal signing strictly on procedural grounds. The Supreme
Court will decide the issue in the coming days. U.S. top
government officials have stressed our continued support for
a peaceful resolution to the long-running conflict in
Mindanao, while stressing that the U.S. is not involved in
the details of the negotiations.

¶6. (C) The U.S. counterterrorism strategy in the region
focuses on separating the small numbers of terrorists
primarily associated with the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah
Islamiyah from Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippines
who seek only autonomy from Manila. Separately, the
5,000-strong Communist 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 infrastructures. 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.

—————————-
ENGAGING ROGUE MILF ELEMENTS
—————————-

¶7. (C) Last week, the Armed Forces carried out a targeted
operation to drive out rogue elements of the MILF from
villages they had illegally occupied in central Mindanao.
The Philippine military emphasized that recent operations
were not directed at the MILF as an organization, but against
rogue elements that have continued to defy the rule of law.
As per the request of the Philippine Armed Forces Chief of
Staff General Alexander Yano, all U.S. forces were restricted
to brigade-level or higher compounds as a precaution against
U.S. personnel being caught up in the violence or accused of
engaging in combat. General Yano stressed this was a
precautionary measure due to the large number of displaced
civilians and the continued threat of sporadic violence in
the area. More than 100,000 people were displaced, prompting
the United Nations to deliver 400 tons of rice to the
affected areas.

¶8. (C) As a result of the on-going conflict, the Philippine
government canceled a planned joint military exercise
involving U.S. F-15E and Philippine OV-10 aircraft citing
sensitivities surrounding current military operations and the
potential need for use of all available Philippine military
assets. Mindful of concerns regarding military presence in
Mindanao, the Mission decided to cancel the August 12 port
call of the USS RENTZ to Zamboanga City after consulting with
local officials.

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

¶9. (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. Secretary Teodoro is
personally involved in the process down to the working level,
and is currently putting his own personnel into key positions
of authority.

——————————————— —
HUMAN RIGHTS: COMBATING EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS
——————————————— —

¶10. (SBU) President Arroyo has consistently expressed her
commitment to resolving the complex problem of extra-judicial
killings and has taken several steps in this direction. With

MANILA 00001960 003 OF 003

increased domestic and international pressure, the number of
extra-judicial killings decreased dramatically in 2007, but
more still needs to be done. While many of these deaths and
disappearances are more likely attributable to local disputes
than to military or police action, it is clear that the
government needs to do more to ensure that these crimes are
fully investigated and that responsible parties — whether or
not they are connected to military or police — are brought
to justice. The problem is closely related to a judicial
system which is inefficient and strained beyond its capacity.
The government has responded with a police task force (“Task
Force Usig”) to investigate the killings, the government also
rejuvenated the Presidential Committee on Human Rights,
established an Armed Forces Human Rights office to
investigate allegations, and allocated additional funding for
the Commission on Human Rights.
KENNEY

   

 

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