378. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Brubeck) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • Proposed Presidential Reply to March 2 letter from President Macapagal

Enclosed is a proposed reply by the President to the letter of March 2 from Philippine President Macapagal1 in which the latter described his [Page 813] difficulties in coming to the United States at the present time,2 touched on the political pressures for realignment of forces in the Far East and invited the President and Mrs. Kennedy to visit the Philippines at a date convenient to them.

Reports from Embassy Manila have consistently indicated President Macapagal does wish to come to the United States but does, indeed, have major political problems, primarily opposition control of the Senate and an up-coming senatorial election, which make it difficult for him to leave this year. We suggest, therefore, that we give him the benefit of the doubt and in our reply have taken sympathetic note of his explanations for his inability to give a clear-cut response at this time to the President’s invitation, suggesting that he may wish to postpone the visit until next year.

We believe we should not specifically respond to President Macapagal’s mention of pressures for realignment and revision of alliances in Asia, but rather address ourselves to the issue of immediate concern to him, Malaysia, the differing U.S.-Philippine attitudes toward it, and our underlying mutual interest in ensuring the security of the Philippines.

As for his invitation to the President and Mrs. Kennedy to visit the Philippines, we think it advisable to rise above his rather unique handling of this matter, attributing his prior public mention of his invitation to well intentioned, if somewhat ill-advised, spontaneity. The closeness of our relations with the Philippines can absorb this incident and we recommend the acceptance in principle of the invitation, leaving the time of such a visit completely open through the use of language similar to that employed in the President’s recent message to President Sukarno.

Grant Hilliker3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 PHIL. Secret. Drafted by Ballantyne and cleared by Bell and Rice.
  2. The March 2 letter is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Philippines, General, 1/63–4/63. A note on the source text indicates that the suggested reply attached to this memorandum and that attached to the March 20 memorandum (Document 379) were combined. The combined reply, dated March 21, was attached and was sent to Manila by pouch on March 22.
  3. On October 4, 1962, Forrestal informed McGeorge Bundy that Harriman favored a visit by Macapagal but the President was unenthusiastic. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memos, Forrestal, 6/62–10/62) On November 16, Stevenson cabled that he had approached Macapagal three times on a U.S. visit without success, but he would keep pressing. Harriman cabled Stevenson that it seemed undignified to do it again and suggested Stevenson leave the next move up to Macapagal. (Telegrams 594 from Manila and 542 to Manila, both November 16; Department of State, Central Files, 796.11/11–1662)
  4. Hilliker signed for Brubeck above Brubeck’s typed signature.