Sep 162014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09MANILA1568.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1568
2009-07-24 08:52
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO5346
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1568/01 2050852
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 240852Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4721
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001568

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/25/2019
TAGS: PGOV PTER EAID RP
SUBJECT: SUSPENSION OF MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST ROGUE MUSLIM REBELS

REF: A. MANILA 1397 (AMBASSADOR AND FOREIGN SECRETARY
DISCUSS NORTH KOREA MINDANAO VFA)
¶B. MANILA 1318 (PHILIPPINES SEEKS BETTER FOOTING
FOR REENGAGEMENT ON PEACE PROCESS)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a demonstration of resolve to pursue peace
with Muslim separatists during her final 10 months in office,
President Arroyo on July 23 announced the suspension of
offensive military operations against rogue Muslim rebels in
central Mindanao, setting her administration down an
ambitious but important road to recovery for the
conflict-affected region, where government forces and Muslim
separatists have been fighting since August 2008. At a July
24 preview discussion with the Ambassador for next week’s
White House meeting, President Arroyo described her utmost
concern for the welfare of civilians displaced by the
fighting, and she expressed hope this ceasefire would allow
them to begin to return home safely. Arroyo is expected to
make a formal announcement about an August return to peace
talks at the July 27 State of the Nation Address, the last of
her presidency — an opportunity to frame this moment as a
positive step for peace in Mindanao, and as part of her
broader presidential legacy. The government expects the
Muslim rebels to issue a reciprocal ceasefire statement
either today or tomorrow. To support the peace process,
President Arroyo and other officials expressed an urgent need
for U.S. development assistance to encourage the MILF’s
return to the negotiating table and to rebuild the lives and
communities of the displaced, assistance that the Ambassador
said the U.S. was ready and willing to provide, including
some programs that could be rolled out on short notice. END
SUMMARY.

GOVERNMENT SUSPENDS OFFENSIVE MILITARY OPERATIONS
——————————————— —-

¶2. (C) Malacanang Palace on July 23 took the first step
toward a new ceasefire in central Mindanao with President
Arroyo’s directive to suspend offensive military operations
in conflict-affected areas. The suspension, the statement
notes, would “advance stability and peace” in order to
“provide a stable environment for the resumption of peace
talks” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF).” The statement amounts to a unilateral
declaration of ceasefire, which government officials said
took effect midnight July 23, and which they were expecting
to be reciprocated by MILF leaders on Friday or over the
weekend. The statement also calls for the Philippine police
— in lieu of the military — to assume primary
responsibility for pursuit of the “three renegade MILF
commanders and other lawless elements,” marking a
transformation of perspective to regard the commanders as a
law enforcement problem, not a military target.

LAYING GROUNDWORK FOR NEW ROUND OF PEACE TALKS
——————————————— –

¶3. (C) In a July 24 preview meeting of next week’s discussion
with President Obama, President Arroyo told the Ambassador
she was pleased with her decision to stop offensive
operations, noting she had become extremely worried about the
current number IDPs displaced by fighting, which totaled
250,000 as of July 7, according to official statistics. A
corresponding ceasefire announcement by the MILF, she said,
was expected to be issued on Friday, and would help bring
calm to the region and lay the groundwork for a return to
peace talks. Arroyo said that, up to now, there had been
some informal non-meetings of the Philippine and MILF peace
panels, and, if all went well, there would be a prelude
meeting on July 28 to set the stage for a resumption of
formal talks. The Ambassador congratulated President Arroyo
on her achievement and said that the U.S. remained ready to
support development projects that could bolster the peace
process.

¶4. (C) Peace panel Chair Rafael Seguis separately told the
Ambassador July 24 that Arroyo had instructed him to make
every effort to create conditions that would allow the MILF
to return to the negotiating table. He planned to talk with
MILF Chairman Murad next week, and noted that the Malaysian
facilitators of the peace negotiations were being very
helpful. Seguis said the President had also tasked him to
work on the safe return of the internally displaced persons
(IDPs) to their home communities, in cooperation with the
military, without harassment, and with the support of

MANILA 00001568 002 OF 002

reconstruction, rehabilitation and livelihood programs.

TOPICS FOR UPCOMING TALKS
————————-

¶5. (C) An official at the Office of the Presidential Advisor
on the Peace Process told emboff that the two parties at next
week’s informal meeting would discuss agreements for a
“contact group” and for the “protection of communities and
IDPs.” Talks will also encompass the International
Monitoring Team and the joint Philippine-MILF policing
entity, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG). The goal of
early talks between the two sides would be to draft a
“concepts” document incorporating the concerns of each side
that would guide future talks. Positive outcomes of recent
informal discussions have induced each side to drop some of
the preconditions that previously delayed talks.
Additionally, a “Friends of the Peace Process” plan would
invite countries to observe the peace talks and would
alleviate MILF concerns that it was negotiating with an
administration which, in its last few months in office, did
not have a mandate to embark on a comprehensive peace deal.
The “Friends” could provide some sort of international
guarantee that the peace process would carry over to the next
Philippine president, to be elected in May 2010.

SEEKING U.S. SUPPORT FOR PEACE PROCESS
————————————–

¶6. (C) President Arroyo expressed to the Ambassador the
Philippines’ sincere need for U.S. help in the form of
development assistance to encourage the peace process
forward. Civil-military operations (CMOs), Arroyo said,
would be particularly important in rebuilding burned houses
and launching medical missions, among other programs. Arroyo
asked the Ambassador if the U.S. could consider specific,
additional training and assistance to seaweed farmers, who,
Arroyo said, were part of a growth industry. The Ambassador
said that the U.S. had at least one project that could be
rolled out on short notice if and when the MILF came back to
the negotiating table. The U.S. was also looking to expand
police training in central Mindanao and would continue
development and livelihood projects. JSOTF would work with
the Philippine military to see how the U.S. could assist with
CMOs, and the Ambassador noted she had already been in touch
with AFP Eastern Mindanao Command’s General Ferrer on this
issue.

MILITARY PLEASED ABOUT SUSPENSION
———————————

¶7. (C) In a separate earlier conversation that day, Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) EastMinCom’s General Ferrer
told the Ambassador that the suspension of offensive
operations would give his soldiers a chance to recover from
the lengthy operations against rogue MILF elements. The
military, he said, was determined to ensure that the return
of IDPs would be well-managed; IDPs should feel protected in
order to avoid creating new animosities between the IDPs and
soldiers or government relief workers. Ferrer expressed hope
that JSTOF could work with the AFP on a strategy for CMOs and
other relief projects, which his team would begin discussing
in earnest next week. The Ambassador said that the U.S.
Mission would think about ways we could cooperate, and looked
forward to hearing some ideas from the AFP for future CMOs.

COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) President Arroyo’s decision to suspend military
operations has attracted applause from many supporters of the
peace process. Others who are familiar with the cyclical
history of success and failure of Mindanao peace negotiations
are cautiously reserving their praise for the moment when
both sides resume talking and renew their commitment to a
long-term ceasefire. Outcomes of recent informal discussions
between the two sides show that there is some reason to be
optimistic that regular formal talks will resume, but the
proof will be the ability of a ceasefire to hold and for each
side to resist resorting to fighting that could, once again,
throw prospects for peace talks off-balance.

KENNEY

   

 

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