369. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, October 24, 19551


  • Philippine Bases
[Page 618]


  • Acting Secretary Hoover
  • Admiral RadfordJCS
  • G—Mr. Murphy
  • FE—Mr. Robertson
  • Navy—Admiral Stump, Admiral Burke, Admiral Hedding, Admiral Smedberg, and Captain Ward
  • PSAJames D. Bell

Mr. Hoover opened the meeting by giving impressions he gained during his recent visit to the Philippines when he had an opportunity to talk to Admiral Goodwin and General Lee and to visit Sangley Point, Subie and Clark Field. Mr. Hoover also had talks with Magsaysay and members of his Cabinet. Mr. Hoover found that the Ambassador was convinced that to carry out the instructions he had received with respect to the Olongapo problem would create a major political upheaval in the Philippines. Ambassador Ferguson, at Mr. Hoover’s suggestion, agreed to put his views in a telegram which was received today.2

Mr. Hoover then read from notes he had made on the Philippine situation. He referred to Magsaysay’s difficulties, particularly the fact that although he had the support of the people he was bitterly opposed by many outstanding political leaders. Mr. Hoover stated that we should be fully aware of Magsaysay’s political problems which were inevitably involved in any attempt to accept our views with respect to bases. He stated that the bases problem has a much broader significance than the narrow problems incidental to the administration of individual bases. He stated that we must realize that the U.S. Military Forces in the Philippines have the status of guests in an independent and sovereign state and that except for those contractual rights set forth in the executive agreement they have no inherent right of freedom of action as in the past. Despite this we do enjoy a preferred position in the Philippines which we, of course, wish to maintain. He expressed the fear that we might be headed into a blind alley. He stated that the two major problems of the moment were Olongapo and Military installations near Manila which we are not actively using.

Mr. Hoover strongly recommended a flexible and conciliatory attitude. For the United States to adopt an inflexible position of “standing up firmly for its rights” might cause an outright refusal of further cooperation by Magsaysay and a greatly intensified political clamor for curtailing rights which the U.S. already enjoys and might make further expansion of the present bases difficult if not impossible. Finally, Mr. Hoover recommended a public relations campaign [Page 619] not only to improve public opinion but also directed toward appropriate orientation of U.S. personnel.

Admiral Radford stated he felt that Mr. Hoover’s notes described the situation in the Philippines very well. He pointed out that he personally had had close contact with the problems of bases in the Philippines since 1945. He said that our troubles probably began when the U.S. decided to leave the Philippines and the Far East in 1945 and withdraw to Guam. He also stated that he thought we had some very poor representatives in the Philippines, both military and civilian. He pointed to what he referred to as a “give-away program” which, he stated, was in effect up until the present administration came to power in the U.S. Our basic policy underwent a change because of the Korean War when we had to build up Sangley, Subic and Clark Field. He pointed out that although President Quirino had at first cooperated he subsequently became most difficult to work with. Admiral Radford said the Filipinos had failed to carry out their bargains pointing especially to the failure of the Philippines to provide land which was promised at Cavite and to the establishment of the Mariveles shipyard on U.S. property.

Admiral Radford stated that he was instrumental in getting the Attorney General to issue an opinion with respect to our title to lands in the Philippines.3 He also spoke at some length on the poor public relations we have had in the Philippines. He said that we have nothing to be ashamed of in our actions in the Philippines. He said it is possible to buy cooperation but that it was certainly not in our interest to do so. He reviewed the difficulties encountered by the Chinese contractor who was clearing wrecks from Subic Bay and stated that this problem was solved only after he had discussed it frankly with Mike Elizalde.4

Admiral Radford then suggested that the atmosphere in the Philippines and particularly the irresponsibility of the Philippine press made it inadvisable to hold base negotiations in Manila. He referred to a letter prepared by Captain Carlos Albert5 (which has not been seen in the Department of State) suggesting that base negotiations should be held in Washington. Admiral Radford said he assumed that General Romulo is aware of this suggestion. The Admiral felt that it would be desirable to conduct negotiations in secret in Washington and get an agreed position between the two governments. [Page 620] He thought that the Philippine Press with Recto’s backing would seriously hamper any negotiations conducted in Manila.

Rather than give in on what amounts to blackmail, Admiral Radford suggested that it might be better to let things ride for a couple of years rather than try and push ahead. The Admiral said that Ambassador Spruance had recognized the necessity for forcing a showdown between Recto and Magsaysay. He said one of the great difficulties was that Magsaysay, although he knows our position is an honest and correct one, trusted no Filipinos. Admiral Radford stated that in a sense the present situation was due to lack of a straight-forward policy here in Washington in the past. This was in part due to lack of interest immediately following the war.

With specific reference to Olongapo the Admiral said it might be described as one of the happiest little towns in the Philippines. He said the Navy had built a hospital and schools and there was a surplus in the town treasury. Admiral Radford again referred to some of the personality difficulties involved in this problem.

Mr. Hoover stated that the Embassy was not in a position to influence or dictate relations between the Philippines and all U.S. personnel which is one of the causes of the friction. He stated he believed that the Ambassador had a balanced view and that some of the difficulties were a matter of personalities.

Mr. Robertson suggested that the group give consideration to the specific recommendations made in Ambassador Ferguson’s telegram No. 1189.6 He read the following excerpts:

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)”.

Mr. Robertson added that he felt that the best chance to get the matter settled is to do it now with Magsaysay and that it would be a mistake to sweep it under the rug for two years.

Admiral Radford expressed concern that any attempt to depend on Philippine courts would not prove useful as such courts have not been cooperative with us in the past.

Admiral Burke pointed out that as far as the use of police and court powers were concerned it would be necessary to spell out the regulations and agreement in the greatest detail.

[Page 621]

Admiral Radford stated that the Philippines’ wishes with respect to schools had already been carried out.

Admiral Stump said that he felt that any question of maladministration in Olongapo could be and should be straightened out as it comes up.

Mr. Hoover expressed the belief that we should handle our bases problem as a package and not to try to do too much piecemeal.

Admiral Radford and Admiral Stump agreed that it would be desirable to reroute the National Highway around Olongapo.

Mr. Hoover emphasized that we should maintain a flexible position and be able to give on minor points. He said that in addition to a public relations campaign to educate the Filipinos re bases we should also make our people realize that U.S. personnel in the Philippines are there as guests of a foreign country.

[Here follows a short discussion of unrelated matters.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.56396/10–2455. Secret. Drafted by Bell.
  2. Supra .
  3. See footnote 2, Document 344.
  4. Joaquin Elizalde, former Philippine Ambassador to the United States.
  5. Captain Carlos Albert, formerly a Philippine Naval Attaché, was attached to the Philippine Embassy in the United States. This letter dated October 6, not found in Department of State files, is summarized in a memorandum from James Wilson to Cuthell, November 3, in Department of Defense,OASD/ISA Files, FMRA Records, Philippines.
  6. Supra .