896.00/3–2350

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Butterworth) to the Secretary of State 1

confidential

Subject: Composition of Proposed American Economic Survey Mission to the Philippines

Discussion

In his conversation of February 6, 1950 with President Truman, President Quirino requested that the United States send an American Economic Survey Mission to the Philippines to survey the Philippine economic and financial situation and make recommendations for the achievement and preservation of economic stability. President Truman expressed his sympathy with and interest in his suggestion. You stated in this same conversation that Ambassador Cowen would be instructed to discuss arrangements for such a Mission with President Quirino. The record of this conversation clearly indicates that the Mission was discussed as an American Mission and not a Joint one.2 Ambassador Elizalde has subsequently stated to me orally that this [Page 1424]was also his understanding of the conversation at which he was present.

Since his return to Manila President Quirino has persistently referred to a “Joint Mission” and is even reported to have said that that is what he had in mind all along, even though the Department has instructed Ambassador Cowen to make it clear to him that this Government believes a Joint Mission would be fruitless. An extensive and intemperate press campaign against an American Mission has also developed which must in large measure be inspired by President Quirino. Much of the comment on this question appears to attach the blame for an American Mission on Ambassador Cowen and may well be part of a reportedly deliberate campaign to force his recall. Negotiations between the Ambassador and close advisers of President Quirino on the composition of the Mission have now largely reached an impasse.

We are firmly convinced that any report prepared by a joint group would not be worth the paper it was written on since the Philippine members would not dare to sign any recommendations for Philippine action which they thought would displease President Quirino. It is our view that any recommendations in a frank and honest report will necessarily be unpalatable to the Philippine Government because of the extent to which its economic situation has deteriorated. By the same token the Philippine members would almost certainly wish to make recommendations for American financial aid of which the American members might not approve or which they could not sign since such signature would almost inevitably be regarded by the Philippines as an American commitment of a nature which only the Congress could make.

This question also involves the integrity of the relations between the United States and the Philippines. This is not the first time that President Quirino has put himself in an awkward position by misrepresenting facts for his own purposes in the hope that the United States would back down. Despite the categoric statement of President Truman to him last August that the guerrilla recognition question was closed as far as the United States was concerned, President Quirino upon his return to Manila deliberately lied and stated publicly that his representations had been favorably received. His statement undoubtedly assisted in his presidential election. Furthermore, President Quirino has suggested in Manila that the proposal for additional war damage payments is viewed sympathetically by President Truman. I know of no evidence to substantiate this contention. President Quirino also finds himself in an embarrassing predicament because of his ill-advised initiative on some kind of Southeast Asian association which he espoused, in part at least, for his own internal political purposes. He has endeavored in various ways to suggest now that the [Page 1425]proposal is really American inspired and if his efforts result in failure, as appeal’s not improbable, he will undoubtedly try to place all the blame on the United States. Now he is attempting to force the American hand on a Joint Mission. His deviousness on these and other questions of mutual interest has seriously impaired the previously cordial and cooperative aspect of faith in American relations.

We are convinced that sooner or later there must be a showdown with him on his behavior and that this is as good an issue as any. If President Quirino gets away with this maneuver he will be more convinced than ever that he can get away with anything he wishes as far as the United States is concerned, and will be correspondingly intractable during a period when proper and decisive measures can draw the Philippines back from the path of economic calamity which it is now treading. Additionally, any withdrawal from our stand would make the position of Ambassador Cowen untenable.

If the proposed démarche in the attached telegram3 proved unavailing I would suggest for consideration a message from President Truman to President Quirino which might state President Truman’s concern over the deterioration of Philippine-American relations, reaffirm his confidence in and support of Ambassador Cowen, and appeal to President Quirino to lay aside his petty internal political considerations in favor of the larger community of interests which should be the primary concern of responsible statesmen. Such an approach would undoubtedly appeal to the overweening Quirino vanity.

Recommendation

That you sign the attached telegram to Manila.3

  1. This memorandum was drafted by John F. Melby.
  2. Regarding the conversation under reference here, see the memorandum of conversation by the Secretary of State, February 4, p. 1412.
  3. The proposed message under reference here was sent as telegram 503, March 24, to Manila, infra.
  4. The proposed message under reference here was sent as telegram 503, March 24, to Manila, infra.