354. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, July 23, 19551

SUBJECT

  • General Conditions in the Philippines; Recto’s Attack on the United States and President Magsaysay; Signing of Trade Agreement

PARTICIPANTS

  • General Carlos P. Romulo
  • Assistant Secretary Walter S. Robertson
  • Mr. James D. BellPSA

General Romulo called on Mr. Robertson today at Mr. Robertson’s request.

Mr. Robertson stated that we had learned General Romulo might be returning to the Philippines shortly and expressed the thought that there were a number of matters that it might be useful to discuss. Mr. Robertson stated that we were somewhat concerned with the continuation of attacks on the United States, apparently inspired by Recto, in the Manila Chronicle, 2 particularly the recent articles with respect to military bases. Mr. Robertson pointed out that very little had been done to answer these attacks.

General Romulo stated that he had been ordered to return to Manila by President Magsaysay largely because Magsaysay anticipated a renewed propaganda campaign against the United States House of Representatives Agricultural Committee of an amendment to the Sugar Bill which might result in the loss of the Philippine sugar quota.3 General Romulo stated that President Magsaysay had been [Page 598] warned that a new campaign of vituperation and misrepresentation against the United States and the Magsaysay administration would shortly be launched and that it might even include a mass meeting with inflammatory speeches. One of Romulo’s principal duties in Manila would be to refute these attacks.

General Romulo said he was well aware of the climate of opinion as put forth by the Chronicle and Recto with respect to our military bases. He stated that the Lopez family had been in debt in the Philippines to the extent of 14 million pesos but had successfully negotiated an $11,000,000 loan from the Chemical Bank of New York at 1½ per cent, which had in effect saved the Chronicle from being abandoned by the Lopez family. …

General Romulo stated that he had recently received a letter from his son who reported that the great majority of the Filipino people still strongly support the United States and that it was only the “intellectuals” in Manila who agreed with the attacks on the United States. He deprecated the influence of the Chronicle and pointed out that the other newspapers in Manila, including the Manila Times with a circulation of 250,000, were pro-United States. He said that these other newspapers would be glad to print information in refutation of biased and inaccurate information in the Chronicle and suggested that the Embassy should undertake to provide such information to friendly papers. In this respect he said that the complete text of the testimony in the United States Congress on the Philippine Trade Act, which contained numerous references to Philippine-American friendship, would be published serially in unspecified Philippine newspapers. General Romulo said that he had discussed the Trade Agreement with United States Congressional leaders and urged them to take a broad view and to use the occasion to demonstrate United States continuing interest in the Philippines.

Mr. Robertson told General Romulo that according to our information Philippine Senate President Rodriguez, had suggested that Magsaysay visit the United States to sign the Trade Agreement and that we understood President Magsaysay was not adverse to the idea. General Romulo said that Magsaysay definitely did not wish to come to the United States at this time. He said that he had talked to Magsaysay on the telephone last night and that Magsaysay told him that the Department of State had agreed to have Romulo sign the Trade Agreement in Washington and that he, Magsaysay, wanted Romulo to make the arrangements immediately. Romulo indicated he expected to be able to accomplish this before leaving for the Philippines on July 31. Mr. Bell expressed the opinion that there were a great many matters to be taken care of including Philippine legislation and some kind of an agreement with respect to a Treaty-Trader type of visa before the Trade Agreement could be signed. General Romulo stated [Page 599] that he had been told by President Magsaysay that the Philippine Congress would act immediately if necessary on the Treaty–Trader legislation. He asked if we would make every effort to have the Trade Agreement signing before July 31. Mr. Bell said that he would discuss the matter with other appropriate Department officials on Monday morning and would inform General Romulo of the possibilities.

  1. Source: Department of State, FE Files: Lot 56 D 679, MC—Philippines. Confidential. Drafted by Bell.
  2. The Manila Chronicle, owned by the Lopez family, Was one of the largest and most influential newspapers in the Philippines. Eugenio Lopez, publisher of the Chronicle, and his brother, former Philippine Vice-President Fernando Lopez, were influential Philippine political and business leaders.
  3. Reference is to proposed amendments to the Sugar Act of 1948. (61 Stat. 338; approved August 8, 1947)