301. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary McNamara and President Macapagal’s Conversation


  • Philippines
  • Diosdado P. Macapagal, President of the Philippines
  • Mauro Mendez, Secretary of Foreign Affairs
  • Rufino Hechanova, Secretary of Finance
  • Oscar Ledesma, Ambassador
  • Brig. General Ismael Lapus, Philippine Armed Forces Attaché
  • United States
  • Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense
  • Rear Admiral W. F. Schlech, Jr., American Military Aide to the President of the Philippines
  • William McC. Blair, Jr., American Ambassador to the Philippines

In response to a question from Secretary McNamara on Viet-Nam, President Macapagal said that he first sensed that something was wrong back in 1960. He said that he detected that the efforts of the Vietnamese Government lacked the support of the people. “When the people are not behind the effort, it is bound to collapse,” he said. The President suggested that more participation by Filipinos “and perhaps by Thais” would be useful. “We are nervous ourselves,” he said. “We are in danger too if anything happens.” With Indonesia headed the way she is, the President said that it was time that the Filipinos shifted their defenses southward. He said this is already under way and that they were using the increase in smuggling as an excuse for the shift.

Secretary McNamara said that he was seriously concerned by the level of the Filipino defense budget. Macapagal replied saying, “It is my peculiar misfortune to be the first President in our history working with an opposition congress.” The Secretary said, “I speak of this reluctantly because your strength depends upon your economic growth. I realize you have internal political problems but the dangers ahead are too great for you to keep your defense efforts at such a low level.” The President replied, “We are studying the situation and I may call a special session of Congress to augment our military preparations.” The President said that the purpose of calling the special session would be to increase revenues both for defense and for schools, and he suggested [Page 664]that even if Congress is controlled by the opposition, it would find it difficult to oppose these measures.

At this point Secretary Hechanova interrupted to say there had been a restoration of earlier cuts in the defense budget. Secretary McNamara said that this was a good first step but inadequate in and of itself. Secretary McNamara then asked the President what size force he had in mind when he talked about an increase in Filipino participation in the war in Viet-Nam. The President turned to General Lapus who gave the figure of between 1,000 and 1,200—“a battalion combat team,” he said. President Macapagal commented that he thought the Filipinos could be most useful in terms of technical assistance and civil action groups. He said that the Vietnamese are weary after 20 years of war and that France had not given them enough “technical know-how.” The President pointed out that there exists a school of public administration at the University of the Philippines. He said that “We can live with the natives but it will be difficult for Filipinos to do it alone.” “Perhaps,” he said, “a sprinkling of Thais is needed.” When asked by the Secretary as to whether he felt the Thais would be receptive to this idea, he answered in the affirmative saying that “if Viet-Nam falls, the Thais will be next.”

Secretary McNamara said that “We would be delighted to join with your staff” in studying both the possibility of an increased Filipino participation in Viet-Nam and the shifting of Philippine defense to the south.2 When asked by the Secretary whether he had any views on the Vietnamese desire to expand the war, the President said, “I am not a military man but you will have to cut the supply routes if you want to win.”

The Secretary said, “We will set up a joint study to see what can be done. If you raise your budget, we will do what we can to supplement it. We are limited in what we can do but we will study it.” Secretary McNamara stated that perhaps what is needed most by the Filipinos is a counter-insurgency force to deal with infiltration from the south.

President Macapagal talked for awhile on the threat of Communist China and pointed out that all of the Asian countries are fearful of Red [Page 665]China. He then said, “I do not know if you have written off Indonesia” and went on to say that he felt every effort should be made to make sure that Indonesia will not be lost to the Communists. The President said that the poverty of the Indonesian people was so bad that “I doubt if in the long run Indonesia can be a real threat.” The Secretary said that the United States certainly had not written off Indonesia. The President said that both China and the Soviet Union were trying to keep Indonesia from moving to the other side and pointed out that “since we are neighbors to Indonesia, we can talk to them.” He said that Sukarno agreed with him that China was a grave threat and said that if only the West could come up with some role for Indonesia to play which would at the same time give Sukarno a chance to help his people, “this might do it.”3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL PHIL–US. Secret. Drafted by Blair. The meeting was held at Blair House.
  2. Secretary of Finance Hechanova discussed the projected shift in Philippine defense posture with Assistant Secretary of Defense McNaughton at the Pentagon, on October 2. Hechanova stated that the highest levels of the Philippine Government had decided that a major threat to the Philippines came from Indonesia in addition to the previously recognized threat of China. The Philippine Government was planning to move military forces south under the guise of anti-smuggling operations. Hechanova also pointed out the danger of subversion in the southern Philippines because of Mindanao’s close religious and cultural ties to Indonesia. This was the reason for Philippine claims to North Borneo now that the British were leaving. (Memorandum of conversation, October 2; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 306, Philippines, 320.2—702)
  3. At 10 a.m. Macapagal met with Rusk to discuss the Indonesian-Malaysian dispute and Philippines-Malaysia relations. Accounts of these discussions are in three memoranda of conversation, all October 6. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA and POL PHIL–MALAYSIA) Macapagal also met with McCone at Blair House at 3 p.m. They primarily discussed events in Vietnam and and the Indonesia-Malaysia dispute. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Philippines, Vol. I, Memos, 11/63–11/64)