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Cablegate: Defense Secretary Cruz Discusses State of The

VZCZCXRO9166
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #4218/01 2770826
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 040826Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3279
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 9433
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//OSD/ISA/AP// IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 004218

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR PM, S/CT, INR/EAP, INR/B, AND EAP/MTS
USPACOM ALSO FOR FPA HUSO
SECDEF/OSD/ISA/AP (LAWLESS/TOOLAN/BAILEY)
JOINT STAFF/J5 (WILKES/ROBINSON/CLEMMONS)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MOPS MCAP PREL PTER PINS PINR RP
SUBJECT: DEFENSE SECRETARY CRUZ DISCUSSES STATE OF THE
MILITARY

REF: MANILA 3935

1. (U) SUMMARY: Secretary of National Defense Cruz in a
major policy speech to the Manila Overseas Press Club
stressed the seriousness of the domestic terrorist threat and
the importance of Philippine Defense Reform. He said a
successful counterterrorism effort had to also incorporate
social and economic programs in order to "drain the pool" in
which terrorists breed. Cruz stated that the threat of a
military coup in the Philippines has greatly diminished,
saying that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is more
stable than it was five years ago. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Secretary of National Defense Avelino Cruz in a
September 21 speech to the Manila Overseas Press Club spoke
about the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) role in
combating terrorism, Philippine Defense Reform, and possible
reverberations in the Philippines of the coup in Thailand.
In the audience were senior military officials, including
General Esperon, the newly-appointed AFP Chief of Staff.

------------------------------
Defeating the Terrorist Threat
------------------------------

3. (U) Secretary Cruz stressed the seriousness of the
domestic terrorist threat. The ongoing AFP operation to
capture or kill Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah leaders
on the island of Jolo had uncovered a terrorist bomb-making
factory, which indicated the influence of sophisticated
foreign training and an obvious intention to inflict mass
casualties in urban areas.

4. (U) Secretary Cruz stated that the Philippine government
is working hard to win the peace, saying that a successful
anti-terror strategy must "drain the pool of poverty in which
terrorists breed." Secretary Cruz said he was encouraged by
the decline in "threat group" membership over the last few
years, but cautioned, "It's not a numbers game." He stated
that the national government must "win communities to our
side, by creating Christian and Muslim solidarity."

5. (U) Secretary Cruz said, in the absence of anti-terrorism
legislation, the Philippine military is fighting the war on
terror "with one arm tied behind its back," and called for
the legislation's swift passage. He assured opponents of the
bill that their rights are protected by the Philippine Bill
of Rights and by provisions within the draft itself.

6. (U) International cooperation is major component of
Secretary Cruz's anti-terror strategy. He called for

SIPDIS
adoption of an anti-terror convention by the Association of
South East Asian Nations, and said cooperation with Malaysia
and Indonesia on control of the seas and intelligence sharing
is imperative. He viewed the United States as the
Philippines' principal treaty partner, and considered the
pending Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia as a
valuable addition to his country's security relationships.

---------------------------------------------
Making Philippine Defense Reform Irreversible
---------------------------------------------

7. (U) Secretary Cruz stated that he is seeking to make the
gains achieved by Philippine Defense Reform irreversible. He
explained in detail the Capability Upgrade Plan (CUP) and its
18-year time line for upgrading the AFP. The first 10 years
focus on getting the right equipment for internal security
operations. The first six blocks of the CUP program budgeted
at 32 billion pesos (approximately $642 million) would equip
72 Army and 12 Marine battalions to improve their
counterterrorism/counterinsurgency capabilities. Subsequent
stages of CUP would be devoted to external defense.

-----------------------------------------
No Repeat of Thai Coup in the Philippines
-----------------------------------------

8. (U) The Q&A session was largely devoted to the September
19 Thai coup and whether the AFP would be emboldened to take
similar action. Secretary Cruz stated that the threat of
adventurism in the Philippine military had been "greatly

MANILA 00004218 002 OF 002


diminished" and that the "AFP is more stable than it was five
years ago." He expressed confidence in General Esperon, the
AFP Chief of Staff, saying "Esperon has a very sharp mind
with a passion for reform," and calling him a "poster boy for
no coups in the Philippines." When asked to comment, General
Esperon stated that "a coup is a step away from political
progress and economic development."

9. (SBU) Comment. Coupled with General Esperon's speech to
the Overseas Press Club a week earlier (reftel), Cruz's
remarks indicate a clear effort by the Philippine defense
establishment to present a united front on three main issues:
counterterrorism, defense reform, and military subordination
to civilian control. Cruz and Esperon appear to have
developed a close working relationship, which bodes well for
progress in all three areas.
KENNEY

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