346. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Davis) to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1


  • Philippine Base Negotiations


To develop a State–Defense position regarding the initiation of formal negotiations for additional U.S. military facilities in the Philippine Islands


Negotiations for additional base rights in this area, which are urgently required by the U.S. forces, have been delayed for some time by a dispute regarding U.S. claim of title to the areas we now occupy under the 1947 military base agreement with the Philippines. The [Page 586] U.S. Attorney General has issued an opinion stating that the U.S. Government does have title to such lands. Philippine legislators of the opposition party have issued an exactly contrary legal opinion. This dispute has been leaked to the Philippine press, creating a major political controversy and causing considerable embarrassment to President Magsaysay’s administration.

In view of the foregoing developments, the State Department has for some time been unwilling to press the Philippine Government for the initiation of formal negotiations, despite the urgency of the U.S. requirements. After considerable discussion with representatives of the Defense Department, the Department of State has proposed a solution to the problem which, it is hoped, would make unnecessary the settlement of the title issue and would permit an early start of negotiations. This proposal was set forth in Secretary Robertson’s letter to you of February 15, 19552 (Tab A), in which he requested that our views be forwarded prior to Mr. Dulles’ departure on February 18. It is anticipated that Mr. Dulles will discuss this matter with Ambassador Spruance and President Magsaysay.

It was determined here that any solution which would permit initiation of negotiations was acceptable, provided (1) the U.S. claim to title was not prejudiced thereby and (2) the United States received adequate compensation for certain areas not now needed by the U.S. forces which will be turned over to the Philippines in exchange for new areas required by us. The proposal presented in Mr. Robertson’s letter appeared to meet these two conditions.

In your absence and that of Mr. Anderson, I have sent the attached letter3 (Tab B) to Mr. Robertson replying to his letter to you. My reply concurs in the Department of State’s proposal but at the same time makes that concurrence subject to fulfillment of the two conditions named above.


If Mr. Dulles is successful in obtaining President Magsaysay’s agreement to the proposal offered, negotiations should commence immediately. Admiral Goodwin, the designated Defense adviser, will be notified if this arrangement is acceptable to the State Department.4

[Page 587]


That you note the attached letter (Tab B) to Mr. Robertson.


The Departments of the Navy and the Air Force and Admiral Radford have concurred.

AC Davis
Vice Adm USN
  1. Source: Department of Defense, OASD/ISA Files, FMRA Records, Philippines. Secret. Drafted by James M. Wilson, Jr., Director of the Office of Foreign Military Rights Affairs, ISA.
  2. See footnote 2, Supra.
  3. Supra.
  4. On March 2, Dulles met with Magsaysay in Manila. They discussed several matters of mutual concern, including the question of United States bases in the Philippines. Dulles summarized the discussion in a telegram:

    “On Philippine bases problem, Secretary suggested negotiations be started on practical basis of needs and mutuality under United States–Philippine Treaty and Manila Pact. Urged avoidance long legal wrangles over title issue. Magsaysay concurred stating Philippines would lease lands for 99 years and then for another 99.” (Telegram from the Secretary of State at Manila to the Department of State, March 2; Department of State, Central Files, 110.11–DU/3–255)