373. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • Vice President Pelaez Call on The President1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Mr. Pelaez, Vice President of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines
  • Ambassador Emilio Abello
  • Assistant Secretary W. Averell Harriman

In discussing the present adverse reaction in the Philippines to the United States as a result of the negative vote in the House on the War Damage Bill, the President explained to Mr. Pelaez that he had done everything he could to get it passed. President Macapagal and Mr. Pelaez[Page 804]should understand the problems that often exist in obtaining legislation by Congress. The leaders of the House were taken by surprise. Opposition developed because so much of the money would go to prosperous corporations. The bill had been reintroduced with slight amendments and it was now hoped that it would pass. The President asked that this be made plain to the Philippine people. Vice President Pelaez said an attempt had been made but that the situation was so complicated that adverse public reaction had not been allayed. He believed, however, that if the bill were passed, the present situation would be smoothed over since there was a basic strong sentiment for the United States and the desire to retain U.S. friendship.

He explained that the change of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12 had no connection with the War Damage incident since it had been agreed to before that had come up. He mentioned that Aguinaldo had urged this change for some years and that agreement among the Philippine leaders had been reached sometime ago. He said that this was not an anti-American action, that July 4 would continue to be a holiday and will be known as American-Philippine Friendship Day. He then showed the President an English translation of the Declaration of Independence of June 12, 1898 and pointed to the expressions of trust, confidence, and respect for the United States in this document. This declaration would be a permanent record of the close relation between our two countries. Vice President Pelaez spoke of the deep friendship between our two countries, of what the Philippines had learned from the United States and the role which the Philippines hoped to play in bringing to Asia a true understanding of the principles of democracy.

The subject of Laos was discussed and President Macapagal’s unfortunate toast to Phoumi.2 Vice President Pelaez said the President [Page 805]should understand how strongly the people of the Philippines felt about Communists, the battle they had had against the Huks, and feeling of prejudice against neutrality. The President explained in some detail his attitude in regard to Laos, pointing out that if we had intervened militarily, most of the forces would have come from the United States, only a hundred or two from the Philippines, and the best that could have been done was to have held the Mekong River cities. The FAR had shown little ability to fight. He contrasted the fighting spirit of the South Vietnamese with that of the Laotians. He expressed the hope now that Laos could remain independent by transferring the struggle from the military to the political arena. The non-Communists were in the majority. The question hinged on whether Mr. Khrushchev would keep his word given to President Kennedy in Vienna. In any event, he planned to watch the situation closely and would welcome Philippine participation in what we were doing in Southeast Asia, token forces for Thailand and some type of assistance in Viet-Nam and Laos.

Vice President Pelaez raised the subject of sugar and asked whether something more could be done for them. The President explained that sugar was a controversial subject on the Hill and he did not know whether the Senate bill or House bill would pass. In any event, he believed the Philippines could count on their 952,000 tons a year. Pelaez said he hoped that could be increased since it was a fixed tonnage and had not been changed for many years. The President pointed out that domestic interests were after the Cuban quota but he had opposed this since some day Cuba might become independent again, in which case Cuba should have its fair share again. If domestic producers took the quota, it would be difficult to pry it away. Investments would have been made in production facilities. The President asked Pelaez whether they could not sell sugar to Japan. He had been disturbed because Japan had been buying sugar from Cuba. Pelaez replied that the Philippines is a high cost producer and could not sell at the world price. The President asked how large was the differential. Ambassador Abello replied 2-1/2 cents. The President suggested they might consider giving a subsidy to sugar in order to earn foreign exchange just as the U.S. gave cotton producers. Pelaez made no comment.

The subject of the Corregidor Memorial was discussed and Pelaez agreed with the President that the O’Neal proposition for an enormous 7.5 million dollar monument was out of place. The President suggested that a public park similar to Gettysburg or Saratoga would be more appropriate. Pelaez agreed and suggested a shaft on which our two flags could be flown as a permanent memorial to the joint action of our two peoples.

The meeting was cordial and it was obvious that Vice President Pelaez enjoyed the frank and direct exchange of views on subjects of [Page 806]mutual interest. Ambassador Abello told Governor Harriman the Vice President had not expected the privilege of such a full discussion, which lasted three quarters of an hour. He was also pleased that photographs were taken.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.96/6–2762. Secret. Drafted by Harriman and approved by the White House on July 25. The source text is dated June 27; the June 26 date and the time of the meeting are taken from the President’s Appointment Book. (Kennedy Library) A briefing memorandum from Brubeck for the President, June 25, is ibid., National Security Files, Countries Series, Philippines, General, 6/62–7/62.
  2. Vice President Pelaez’s visit to Washington was “hastily arranged” as a means of demonstrating U.S. regard for the Philippines and to offset the defeat of the War Damage Bill. Pelaez arrived in Washington on June 25. In addition to the President, he saw the Acting Secretary of State, the Secretaries of Defense, Commerce, and Agriculture, the AID Administrator, Bowles, Harriman, the Acting Director of USIA, U. Alexis Johnson, the Chairman of the JCS, the heads of the IMF and Export-Import Bank, McGeorge Bundy, Senator Sparkman, and Congressmen Judd and Zablocki. An overall account of these meetings is in telegram 1609 to Manila, June 28. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.9611/6–2862)

    Memoranda of conversation between Pelaez and Secretary of Defense McNamara, Secretary of Agriculture Freeman, and Acting Director of USIAWilson, all June 26, are ibid., 796.56511/6–2662,411.9641/6–2662, and 511.964/6–2662, respectively. An account of the meeting with AID Administrator Hamilton is ibid., FE/SPA Files: Lot 64 D 523, Chron File, 1962.

  3. In the toast Macapagal encouraged visiting anti-Communist Lao leaders Prince Boun Oum and Phoumi Nosavan to oppose neutralization of Laos by stating that he deplored the fact that they were receiving less support from the West than Lao neutralist forces. (Memorandum from Hilsman to Harriman, RFE–26, June 19; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Philippines, General, 6/62–7/62) This memorandum also concluded that Macapagal’s reaction to the defeat of the War Damage Bill was for domestic Philippine consumption and did not represent a real deterioration in U.S.-Philippine relations.