Executive Secretariat Files: Lot 61D167: File—NSC 84 Series

Draft Paper Prepared in the Department of State for Consideration by National Security Council Staff1

top secret

The Situation in the Philippines

the problem

1. To assess and appraise the position of the United States with respect to the Philippines.


The American Objective in the Philippines.

2. The American objective in the Philippines is to achieve and preserve a stable and self-supporting economy, and a reasonably honest and efficient government, in order that it may plan its proper role in the community of free nations, preserve and strengthen its basically anti-Communist attitude, and maintain the traditionally pro-American orientation of the Philippine people and government.

The American Interest in the Philippines.

3. The United States has a fundamental interest in insuring that the Philippines shall be free and stable, because of the responsibility arising from the half-century of American sovereignty over the islands and the public commitment that the Philippines should be independent and stable.

4. The United States has played a primary role in convincing the other free nations of the world that the new wind of nationalism in Asia is a basic reality which can no longer be ignored. This force of nationalism can be tempered or changed somewhat in course, but it can no longer be reversed. The Philippines, in the eyes of the peoples of Asia and of the European colonial powers, is living evidence of American faith and belief in its protestations. Failure of the Philippine [Page 1462] experiment could only correspondingly discredit the United States in the eyes of the world and proportionately decrease its influence.

5. The Philippines plays an important role in the determination of the United States to contain the tide of communism within its present limits, and eventually to reverse its present expansionist trend. It must be assumed that failure or collapse of the present Philippine Government or any constitutional successor would eventually, though not immediately, precipitate the Communists into power. Such an eventuality would almost certainly end the possibility of anti-Communist successes on the mainland of Southeast Asia and, in all probability, in Indonesia also.

6. The Philippines assumably occupies a strategic point in the island chain of American military security in the Western Pacific. The relative importance of the Philippines in this respect is, of course, a matter properly for evaluation by the Department of Defense, which should be requested to set forth its views. …

The Domestic Philippine Situation.

7. In the light of the appalling human and physical destruction which took place in the Philippines during the war against Japan and whose only comparable parallel in modern times surely was that which took place in Eastern Europe, the progress in reconstruction and rehabilitation since independence has been remarkable. Due to the present world threat of communism and the generally chaotic conditions of Asia, however, this progress has been insufficient to enable the Philippines to achieve and preserve stability on the basis of its own resources alone.

8. Production of exportable commodities and of basic domestically-consumed foodstuffs, such as rice and fish, has not yet reached prewar levels, or levels sufficient to reach a balance of international payments, or to preserve or strengthen the Philippine foreign exchange position. To do so some financial assistance will be required from the United States, together with a measurable amount of American technical advise, and enough American control over the expenditure of American aid to insure that such aid will achieve the desired objectives.

9. Tax laws are inadequate and improperly enforced. Consequently, there is a serious budgetary deficit. Until recently Philippines resources had been squandered on the import of unnecessary and unjustifiable luxury consumer goods. Corruption is a dominant characteristic at all levels of public administration and correspondingly tends to infect most activities of private life.

10. Since the tragic death of President Roxas in 1948, Philippine leadership has been discouragingly weak and short-sighted. This [Page 1463] leadership has failed to understand the problems confronting the country and the remedies which must be applied. There is, however, a group of intelligent younger men who do understand. They must somehow be persuaded to exert greater influence in the conduct of the public affairs of their country.

11. A potentially serious military situation exists arising from the Hukbalahap movement. The Huks draw their primary strength from the central Luzon plain, the great rice growing areas of the Philippines, which had traditionally been the center of agrarian discontent. During the period of its sovereignty, the United States failed to solve this problem, and the Philippines has been no more successful. The Huks as such were first organized as anti-Japanese guerrillas, and since the end of the war against Japan have maintained and strengthened their organization by capitalizing upon economic discontent. In marked contrast to the Philippine army and constabulary, which has usually mistreated and oppressed the population in areas where they have operated, the Huks have increased their popular support by correct behavior. The leadership of the Huk movement has now been totally captured by the Communists, and must be considered as an out and out Communist movement. Although the Huk problem properly would have been susceptible of solution by economic and social measures some years ago, these measures must now be accompanied by a determined military effort. Philippine military efforts so far have been on the whole ineffectual because they have been based on conceptions of classical warfare. To solve the military aspect of the problem, the Philippine Government must apply the same kind of military tactics which the Huks are now using so successfully as they gradually extend their activities from Luzon into the other major parts of the island.


12. The vital interests of the United States require that the Philippines must become and remain stable, anti-Commimist, pro-American, and an example for the rest of Asia of progressive and responsible government.

13. In so far as necessary, and through appropriate and face-saving means, the United States must reassert its influence in order to assist the Philippines to achieve economic stability and reasonably good government. This objective will require technical advice and limited financial assistance which should, however, be given only with such American control as will insure the accomplishment of the desired objectives.

14. Such American military advice and material aid must be granted to insure the liquidation of the military phase of the Huk problem.

  1. Papers in the Executive Secretariat Files, Lot 61D167, File—NSC 84 Series indicate that President Truman in late May 1950 orally requested James S. Lay, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, to arrange for the preparation of a policy paper on the Philippines by the Council. Following discussions by Lay with high-ranking officers of the Departments of State and Defense, the Philippine question was considered by the National Security Council Consultants on June 8. The draft paper printed here, prepared in the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs, was circulated to the National Security Council Staff on June 20, but no action was taken on it pending submission of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following submission of those views (NSC 84, September 14, p. 1484), a new policy paper on the Philippines was prepared which eventuated in NSC 84/2, November 9, p. 1514.