996.61/1–1750: Telegram

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

confidential

195. Evening January 17 I had two-hour conversation arranged at instance Vice President Lopez1 and held in his presence with Secretary Finance Pedrosa.2 During this conversation we discussed his statement January 13 which was published Manila press following day (Embtels 118, January 11 and 171, January 14).3 Pedrosa admitted that he had not read complete text Secretary Acheson’s January 12 speech either at time he prepared own statement or thereafter. He explained he did not wish read it because he had been too angered by excerpts on Philippines quoted in press reports and that he had believed Secretary’s speech was result of plan directed against Philippine Government, in which members this Embassy and their contacts in Department involved which would culminate in issuance White Paper on Philippines. He felt implementation such plan had been [Page 1402]begun with publication June 17, 1949 Wall Street Journal article by Ray Cromley headlined “ECA-type plan to put Philippine Islands on their feet is failing”.

In support his thesis he also asserted that President Quirino had no more than arrived US4 when World Bank issued statement loan sought by Philippines would not be extended during next couple months and that this soon was followed by AP article with January 13 Washington dateline quoting authoritative quarters there as saying US does not intend recognize additional Filipino guerrillas.

I told Pedrosa his thesis Department may be trying gracefully to ease US out of Philippine picture by issuing White Paper was incompatible with Acheson’s statement re defense Philippines against attack and that he would have realized this had he read full statement. I added that every communication from Embassy passes over my desk and I was in position assure him there is no plot such as he suspected. As far as report about US non-recognition further guerrillas concerned, I reminded him he was present when President Truman stated US regards question as closed but that Philippine authorities had nevertheless kept matter alive for political reasons.5

I then referred his allegation some Embassay officials have stated all factors in debacle China at work Philippines and asked him whom he had in mind. He replied he had in mind conversation I had with him on improved administration tax laws during which I had warned that factors which brought about downfall. Thing must not be allowed bring about similar result this country. I pointed out that conversation was private one between us and that he had done Embassy and myself disservice in making my confidentially-expressed warning basis public charge.

Pedrosa thereupon stated he regretted contents his release press and would so inform Philippine Cabinet at its next meeting. He added that he also would seek occasion for public statement correcting false impressions conveyed therein.

Cowen
  1. Fernando Lopez.
  2. Pio Pedrosa.
  3. On January 12, 1950 Secretary of State Acheson gave an address before the National Press Club in Washington in which he reviewed United States policy towards Asia. In one section of the address, devoted to a consideration of the limitations of American assistance to Asian countries, Secretary Acheson pointed out that in the postwar period, the United States had given the Philippines a billion dollars of direct economic aid and had spent another billion dollars in such matters as veterans’ benefits and other payments to the Philippines, but “much of that money has not been used as wisely as we wish it had been used.” The Secretary also warned that if help continued to be misused, the United States would halt assistance. For the text of the Secretary’s address, see Department of State Bulletin, January 23, 1950, pp. 111–118 or Department of State publication 6446, American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955: Basic Documents, vol. ii, pp. 2310–2322. Telegram 171, January 14, from Manila, not printed, reported on the front-page coverage by Manila newspapers of Secretary Acheson’s address and included the text of Secretary of Finance Pedrosa’s lengthy statement to the press denying Philippine misuse of American assistance (996.61/1–1450). Regarding telegram 118 under reference here, see footnote 5, below.
  4. President Quirino arrived in Baltimore for medical treatment on January 10; see footnote 2 to telegram 75, January 8, from Manila, supra.
  5. In his telegram 118, January 11, from Manila, not printed, Ambassador Cowen observed that it was the consensus of Filipinos and Americans in the Philippines that the United States had done a “bad job” of handling the question of paying back pay to wartime Philippine guerrillas and that the failure to recognize a substantial number of “true guerrillas” had become an enduring source of bitterness. The Ambassador could nevertheless see no reason for believing that the question of guerrilla recognition, if reopened, could be handled in any more satisfactory manner. The Ambassador urged that President Quirino’s visit to the United States be used as the occasion for a public statement by President Truman and the Secretary of Defense formally and finally declaring the guerrilla recognition matter closed (796.00/1–1150).