306. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) and James C. Thomson, Jr., of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson 1
- Your meeting with Philippine Ambassador Ledesma, June 2, at 12:45 p.m.2
Ambassador Ledesma’s request for an appointment with you comes at a good time for a strong push by you to get Philippine Congressional approval of a 2,000-man Task Force of engineers for Vietnam.
The Ambassador will give you two letters from President Macapagal:3 one on sugar legislation (which you need only acknowledge, saying that we will give this matter study; Ledesma expects no discussion on sugar), the other a brief note of thanks for sending Ambassador Lodge to the Philippines.
The second letter provides the point of departure for a discussion of the Task Force.
Macapagal offered such a force during his State Visit last October. Since then, after prolonged negotiations, we have come close to our goal: We have worked out a covert U.S. financing arrangement (Note: Ambassador Ledesma does not know about this arrangement and should not know); and the Philippine House of Representatives has approved the proposal for the Task Force by a large majority.
Chief stumbling block now is the Philippine Senate, which is controlled by the Nacionalista Party, Macapagal’s opponents in a tough election year. Here we can achieve success only through bi-partisan support for the measure; yet the Nacionalista leadership is so far opposed. (Macapagal needs 13 votes and is sure of only 10.)
Ambassador Ledesma can help to provide a solution: he is not only a well-respected businessman and very pro-American; he is also a life-long member of the opposition Nacionalista Party. An appeal to him can [Page 675]therefore carry weight not only with Macapagal, but with his own party and its representatives in the Senate.
- You recall with great warmth Macapagal’s support for our Vietnam policies last October and his statement that Filipinos, as Asians, could make an important military and psychological contribution in Vietnam. (We are grateful for the 73 Filipinos—in medical civic action and psychological warfare—already in Vietnam.)
- You understand Macapagal’s desire for Congressional approval of the 2,000-man Task Force.
- You can assure the Ambassador of our total determination to stay with the job in Vietnam; our determination has been demonstrated anew in our actions since January.
- You are convinced that early dispatch of the Task Force would hearten the South Vietnamese people, convey a strong warning to the Communists, and disprove American critics who claim that our Vietnam policies lack Asian support.
- You request that the Ambassador, both as Macapagal’s representative and as a respected member of the opposition party, use his influence with both parties in Manila in order to promote bi-partisan support for the Task Force. You understand the difficulties of an election year and a divided Congress; but the need for such a Task Force clearly transcends party rivalries in view of the challenge which confronts us all in Southeast Asia.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Philippines, Vol. II, Memos, 6/64–6/66, [1 of 2]. Secret.↩
- The President met Ledesma from 12:56 to 1:05 p.m. The meeting was “Off the Record.” (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) The Department of State also sent the White House a briefing paper for this meeting. (Memorandum from Read to Bundy, May 31; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27–3 VIET)↩
- Dated May 13 and April 29, respectively. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Philippines, Macapagal Correspondence, 12/63–12/65)↩