Sep 172014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/01/09MANILA142.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA142
2009-01-22 07:18
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO2184
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0142/01 0220718
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 220718Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2951
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000142

SIPDIS

STATE FOR S/CT, EAP/MTS, DS/IP/ATA, DS/IT/ATA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2019
TAGS: ASEC PTER RP
SUBJECT: THE NEW PEOPLE’S ARMY POSTURING IN ADVANCE OF BILATERAL EXERCISE

REF: 2008 MANILA 1795: THE NEW PEOPLE’S ARMY: DOWN
BUT NOT OUT

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The New People’s Army (NPA) continues to
pose a security challenge to Philippine military and law
enforcement agencies, but although the NPA remains active in
several provinces, its capacity to wage effective attacks
against the government is diminishing on a national scale.
In response to joint U.S-Philippine civil-military activities
that will be conducted as part of Balikatan 2009 in the Bicol
region of central Philippines, the NPA recently issued
statements warning that local residents should not be fooled
by these “humanitarian missions” and called for “tactical
offensives” to disrupt the bilateral exercise. While both
Embassy and Philippine government personnel have interpreted
the statements as directed at the Philippine military, local
media have mischaracterized the statements as aimed at U.S.
forces who will be participating in Balikatan. The NPA,
whose support among the vast majority of Filipinos has waned
considerably over the last few years, is thought to still
have strong support in some isolated areas, including the
Bicol region, and may be using the media attention
traditionally associated with the annual Balikatan exercises
to call attention to the NPA cause. U.S. force protection
personnel continue to monitor the situation in Bicol and
other areas that will host Balikatan activities, but at this
time have not determined that the NPA poses a significant
threat to U.S. military personnel who will take part in the
exercise. END SUMMARY.

————————————–
NPA DANGEROUS, BUT NOT THREATENING USG
————————————–

¶2. (C) Over the past several years, the New People’s Army has
lost much of its ability to conduct sustained military
operations but, in several regions, remains capable of
conducting lethal attacks against both Philippine law
enforcement and military personnel (reftel), along with
extorting local businesses in pursuit of payment of
“revolutionary taxes.” According to the Philippine military,
since August 2008, the NPA has killed more than two dozen
persons and conducted at least 250 attacks throughout the
Philippines against the government and businesses. In early
January 2009, the NPA claimed responsibility for a roadside
bomb that wounded the governor of Masbate Province in central
Philippines, but denied the attack was directed at the
governor, saying the bombs were intended for the police who
were traveling with her.

¶3. (C) The Masbate attack comes on the heels of the NPA
labeling upcoming civil-military operations that will take
place in Bicol and surrounding regions during the Balikatan
U.S.-Philippine joint military exercise as an excuse for
“spying on the revolutionary movement.” The NPA also claimed
there are no terrorist groups in the region and no
“calamities” which would necessitate the need for
humanitarian activities. Press reporting mischaracterized
the NPA’s statements as calling for action against U.S.
forces that would participate in the humanitarian activities,
an assertion that both Embassy and Philippine government
personnel discount. Since 2001, the NPA has not made direct
threats against the U.S. government or military, but instead
has directed its actions against Philippine military and law
enforcement agencies, accusing them of being “puppets” of the
United States.

——————————-
NPA RHETORIC RELATIVELY LOW KEY
——————————-

¶4. (C) Despite their recent allegations warning the local
Bicol populace about the “true intentions” of the
Balikatan-related humanitarian activities, so far the NPA’s
rhetoric has been low-key regarding the annual bilateral
military exercise. USG and Philippine observers believe the
NPA is trying to influence less militant organizations that
have historically been sympathetic to their message, but may
have shied away from openly aligning with a group that
continues to use violence as its primary method to settle
disputes.

MANILA 00000142 002 OF 002

¶5. (C) For its part, the Philippine government has attempted
to de-escalate the rhetoric regarding its activities against
the NPA, although President Arroyo and other top elected and
military officials have not backed away from their
publicly-declared intent to defeat the NPA by 2010, the end
of President Arroyo’s administration (reftel). While recent
statistics indicate that the NPA-led attacks over the past
few months continue to cause more fatalities and damage than
Islamist terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah
Islamiyah, the NPA may be capitalizing on a Philippine
military that has competing security responsibilities. Since
August 2008 — when rogue commanders of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) attacked military units and civilians
in central Mindanao — the government has shifted troops from
the central Philippines to Mindanao as the Armed Forces of
the Philippines continue to conduct military operations
against rogue MILF elements. This period corresponds with an
up-tick in NPA activity for certain areas of the country.
The USS Pelilieu visited Bicol in 2007 and the crew joined
Ambassador and Embassy staff in hosting a very well attended
July 4 celebration on board.

——————————————— —
BALIKATAN ACTIVITIES PART OF BROADER ENGAGEMENT
——————————————— —

¶6. (C) The Mission, particularly USAID, has been very active
in the Bicol region for years. In the aftermath of a typhoon
which devastated the provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur in
2006, USAID provided more than USD 5 million in support of
reconstruction activities — including building 1,000 new
homes and three community centers — while also implementing
local disaster preparedness training. USAID has also focused
on improving the quality of health care in the region by
assisting in developing new health care strategies for
families and improving existing medical programs for
children, all of which has contributed to the NPA’s waning
influence in the Bicol region.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) At this point, the Mission believes that the NPA’s
statements and the media’s portrayal of Balikatan are
designed to rouse the small but influential group of elites
who routinely criticize U.S. military activities in the
Philippines. Building on USAID’s existing presence in the
region, the Mission has begun reaching out to local and
regional officials in preparation for Balikatan 2009. By
initiating meetings with members of Congress, mayors, and
governors, as well as implementing an integrated and robust
public affairs posture with the Philippine government, the
Mission’s proactive engagement prior to Balikatan will ensure
that local leaders and residents are well-informed about the
many benefits Balikatan will bring to the region, thus
thwarting false accusations and misleading statements by the
NPA and others.

KENNEY

   

 

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