368. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State1

1189. For Robertson. My 1137.2 After careful study instruction Deptel 1144,3 in which experienced and responsible members my staff have joined, I feel I must in strongest terms request reconsideration. I believe that one of our most difficult problems with nations friendly to us is how we can operate military bases within their territory during peacetime. What we do in the Philippines will have a tremendous effect on solution of this problem. We have long and [had?] very favorable terms in the Military Bases Agreement. I do not believe that we will have to change those terms or the basis of those that we might get in the future if we use some tact in solving the Olongapo and other problems that may confront us.

Reference to “possible political implications” in first paragraph Deptel is understatement of most extreme nature; the implications are positive, they endanger our position in not only Philippines but entire region (and possibly entire world) in terms of good will and cooperation of other governments. With strict reference to Philippines, delivery and publication (almost certain Neri will release to press) of communication such as suggested by reftel would offer potent weapon Magsaysay’s enemies and even worse could very possibly alienate him from present attitude of friendship for U.S. to one of bitter, disappointed enmity. He is engaged in serious struggle over issue of subservience to U.S.; if now or immediately following elections (and regardless of outcome these elections) I were to reply to Neri as suggested, there is definite possibility or even probability [Page 616] Magsaysay might decide demonstrate how tough he can get with Americans. It must be remembered: (1) Magsaysay is already resentful of our refusal to agree that he go to U.S. for purpose of bringing back financial assistance; (2) he has never lost a political controversy before; (3) he is moody and unpredictable; (4) he might very easily blame Americans for leading him into break with Recto in first place; and (5) those people who shrug off Recto’s attacks on us would go along wholeheartedly with Magsaysay if he should turn on us.

Turning to numbered points of Deptel, following comments appear highly relevant to me:

Statement U.S. has no desire maintain civil community in Olongapo is unrealistic. Fact is such community exists, has long existed and we intend continue its existence.
Claim that circumstances under which community grew up not our responsibility highly debatable. Fact is population increased four-fold in last four years, while Navy has exercised complete control as to who permitted enter or reside Olongapo and even over what buildings can be constructed.
This in my opinion is utterly pointless. Suggestion Philippines may move community their expense gratuitous and irritating since everyone knows project far more impossible for them than for us.
Cost may seem excessive but if it would contribute in any way to solution of problem which will be with us during next 90 years it might be justified. It should be borne in mind, of course, fencing implies demarcation limits Olongapo.
(5) (6) (7)
These paragraphs restate the problem but absence of firm suggestions for compromise convey nothing further than ambiguity and indecision. Vague promises of something for the future would, I am convinced, be interpreted by all Filipinos as typical brush-off. If concessions are possible, other than token ones so far extended, we should make them now and not try to offer meaningless assurances of possible consideration in future. I believe that Filipinos recognize Olongapo cannot be run as ordinary municipality and that concessions would (and should) be extended which would satisfy Filipinos and with which Navy could live. This, I am satisfied, is crux of whole matter and is the one point on which we must give Magsaysay some satisfaction. As I pointed out in despatch 338,4 Neri told me on Sept 14 that if something in nature of self-govt cannot be given Olongapo, he and I must recognize our efforts to correct situation will have been fruitless. Consequently there is no point in reviewing what has already been done locally (point 8) since Neri has indicated he considers measures inadequate from Philippine viewpoint (see my despatch 3845).

I can only repeat my recommendation in strongest terms that entire matter be further considered with most careful attention given [Page 617] to possible specific concessions or compromises we can offer in area of Philippine self-govt at Olongapo without sacrifice of security our bases and their operation.

Deptel reference in first para to “control” of town seems to indicate misunderstanding of what Filipinos want and what would satisfy them. They want: (1) police and court powers over violations of Philippine law; (2) operation of their schools; (3) elimination of charges on their citizens which create “double taxation”; and (4) elimination of fees for ID cards (which could be replaced, I believe, with increased charges for building and commercial licenses). There has never been any suggestion of wanting “control” in any way that would compromise or make difficult security or other functions having a bearing on operations as a military base. Neri has spoken repeatedly of effective concurrent jurisdiction, with Philippine police and courts handling only violations Philippine law and Navy keeping entire jurisdiction over military or base security matters. I feel some mechanism to meet this desire can and should be found; I also believe there need be no conflict in exercise such concurrent jurisdiction and that it could even result in greater security. Under Secretary Hoover suggested while here, in presence Admiral Goodwin, possible deputizing as Philippine law enforcement officers of the base security officers who are now operating in Olongapo. This would seem a very minor concession to make, but I believe this suggestion, together with the existing Philippine justice of the peace courts, would offer a basis on which a settlement with the Filipinos might be reached in their demand for effective self-govt.

If Dept still feels, after considering above, that communication to Neri should be delivered as indicated ref Deptel I shall, of course, do so making every effort minimize adverse effects on U.S.-Philippine relations.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.56396/10–2355. Secret; Limited Distribution.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., 711.56396/10–1855)
  3. Document 365.
  4. Dated September 15, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 711.56396/9–1555)
  5. Dated September 27, not printed. (Ibid., 711.56396/9–2755)