811.24596/11–746: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Philippines ( McNutt ) to the Secretary of State

secret
us urgent

730. In order to counteract growing impression in articulate Philippine circles that US is demanding base rights and other special privileges here and that Philippine Government is yielding, although unwillingly, to US demands, I propose in Armistice Day speech at American Legion banquet to make declaration along following lines:

“The United States is devoted to principle of equality of rights among nations, the United States is devoted to peace, the United States [Page 925] will not impose its will upon another nation, the United States will not ask concessions from a weaker power against the will of the people and government of that power. The United States and the Philippine Governments have entered into a solemn compact for the mutual defense of the Philippines believing such defense to be in the interest of both nations. Negotiations based upon this fundamental premise are in progress. The working out of the details of such an accord as to the location of bases and military installations is merely a matter of arriving at a fair, practical and strategically sound program. That is a mechanical problem the solution of which is assured in advance on the basis of mutual deliberations in good faith. I am sure such a solution will be found. However, if the Philippine Government and the Filipino people should at this point decide that the presence of American troops on this soil is so onerous as to outweigh the benefits to this country in the form of surety and other advantages, I am sure the United States Government will be willing to reconsider its commitments and to withdraw from the discussions now in progress. If such a proposal were made, I would urge my government and my country to withdraw its troops from the Philippines. I would, against my better judgment but in deference to my affection for the Filipino people and my primary devotion to Philippine-American relations, urge my government to accept the proposition that the Filipino people have decided to discard the protection of American arms and power and to do without the security afforded by the United States. It is certainly within the prerogatives of the Philippines as a sovereign and independent nation to take this stand. I think that it would be most disastrous from the viewpoint of the Philippines. I do not pretend that American interests would best be served in this manner, but the United States cannot afford to be challenged on the basis of its immutable principles without accepting that challenge. The United States will abide by those principles. The Filipino people must announce their position.”

It is my belief that a statement similar to the above will tend to strengthen Roxas’ hand in controlling members of his own administration who are privately sabotaging his foreign policy, who are furnishing ammunition for the attack on the base program. It will place the burden and the responsibility on the Philippine Government rather than on the US. It will force all groups in the administration to support Roxas’ program or run the risk of being labelled as anti-administration. I have discussed this matter privately with President Roxas and he agrees with this approach. The Department’s early comment will be appreciated.97

McNutt
  1. In reply, telegram 636, November 8, noon, to Manila, stated that “consensus is that your proposed declaration is inadvisable at this time and that public reference to ‘a solemn compact for the mutual defense of the Philippines’ would be impolitic in any foreseeable circumstances”; this was the result of most careful consideration at highest levels of the State, War, and Navy Departments (811.24596/11–746).