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Cablegate: Laying Groundwork for Successful Mercy Deployment

VZCZCXRO6718
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0885/01 1050753
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 140753Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0364
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUENAAA/SECNAV WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000885

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: LAYING GROUNDWORK FOR SUCCESSFUL MERCY DEPLOYMENT
IN COTABATO

REF: A. MANILA 141
B. 06 MANILA 4656

1. (U) Summary: During an April 9 visit to Cotabato City,
in the southern Philippines, the DCM, Mercy U.S. Navy
Commander Speight, DATT, and D/PolCouns consulted with senior
officials from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM), Cotabato City, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),
and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) regarding the
upcoming visit of the USNS Mercy. The DCM highlighted the
importance of the Mercy visit to the U.S.-Philippine
partnership; the Mercy's humanitarian mission to provide
medical care to tens of thousands of Filipinos; Mercy
personnel's intention to train and learn from hundreds of
Philippine doctors and other medical personnel; and the
Mercy's overarching goal to help bring peace and prosperity
to this conflict-affected area. Officials were grateful for
and focused on the Mercy deployment. They appreciated the
opportunity to share their thoughts, as well as to share
ownership and credit, for a successful Mercy Mission,
including with local media. End Summary.

Bringing the Message to the Patients
------------------------------------
2. (U) In meetings with government and local officials in
Cotabato City in the southern Philippines April 9, the DCM
laid the groundwork for a smooth USNS Mercy visit May 29 -
June 14. He emphasized that the Mercy visit reflected the
strong historical friendship between our respective countries
and the importance of partnerships, not only with Philippine
national and local government officials, but also with NGOs
and community organizations. The DCM underscored the
humanitarian nature of the mission and its goal of reaching
tens of thousands of poor Filipinos with medical care. The
DCM pointed out that the effect of the Mercy mission would
long outlast the visit, as hundreds of Filipino doctors and
other medical personnel would receive needed hands-on
training. The DCM expressed the hope that the Mercy visit
would play a positive role in helping bring peace and
prosperity to this conflict-affected area. Finally, the DCM
expressed appreciation for the tremendous amount of work
involved from local officials and from the Armed Forces of
the Philippines. U.S. Navy Commander Robert Speight, advance
team leader for the Mercy visit who accompanied the DCM,
provided details of the deployment.

"A Great Thing for the People"
------------------------------
3. (SBU) Ghazali Jaafar, Vice-Chairman of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF), was enthusiastic, showing keen
interest and expressing "heartfelt" gratitude for the Mercy
mission. As if to underscore the need for the DCM's outreach
visit, Jaafar lamented that some uninformed people in the
hinterlands believed U.S.-provided medicine was "poisonous,"
and he eagerly agreed to convey the humanitarian nature of
the mission to constituents. "This is a great thing for the
people," he said. He was thoroughly engaged in details and
asked numerous questions about project coordination, Mercy
capabilities, and site selection, and even suggested that
security at one particular site could be problematic.
(Planners subsequently removed the site from further
consideration.) Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, whose
recent election as Chairman of the Moro National Liberation
Front (MNLF) has been controversial, was equally appreciative
and engaged in details. Noting that the elections in the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were scheduled
for August, he expressed hope that the Mercy visit would not
be used by some officials for political gain.

"You Listened to Us"
--------------------
4. (U) During a February 20, 2008, meeting at the U.S.
Embassy, Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and other senior officials
from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had stressed
the need for U.S. officials to consult locally prior to
undertaking major exercises. Noting that the DCM's visit was
exactly the kind of consultation they had requested, they
offered their unconditional assistance in "getting the
message out" and in any other way necessary. They also noted
with some delight that during the 2006 Mercy visit to the
Philippines, they had traveled to Manila to request that the
Mercy visit include their region (ref B). Said ARMM Attorney
General Frances Guiani, "You listened to us, and the Mercy is
coming to our region."


MANILA 00000885 002 OF 002


Comment
-------
5. (SBU) Much coordination and planning had already been
done at working levels by personnel from Mercy, JSOTF-P,
JUSMAG, USAID, and State. The DCM's visit and visible
consultations with senior local leaders allowed them to share
ownership and credit for the upcoming Mercy deployment.
Local leaders began speaking to the media during the DCM's
visit. We believe this augurs very well for a successful
media campaign and deployment.
KENNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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