311. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Philippines 1

327. 1. While Macapagal letter of July 242 (pouched Manila Aug 18) seems to provide context within which President can make helpful [Page 682]explanation our rice difficulties while thanking Macapagal for his explanation failure meet Phil Task Force commitment, need Emb judgement on possibility Malacanang will interpret combination of two items in single letter as veiled threat to withhold rice if troops not produced.

2. Text of proposed Presidential reply would be along following lines:

“I deeply appreciated your thoughtfulness in apprising me personally of the factors underlying your decision to postpone further efforts to gain legislative approval for a Philippine engineer battalion to serve in Viet-Nam. I am most heartened by your resolution to again seek authority from the Philippine Congress for the battalion, and your decision that the present contingent will remain. As I have written in the past, your support of Free World efforts in South Viet-Nam is of signal importance to us and to the Vietnamese people.
“In respect to our common struggle in Viet-Nam, I hope that you will bear with us in a matter which directly affects our mutual interests. Sudden and urgent need has arisen in Viet-Nam for massive supplies of rice to areas temporarily cut off by enemy action from the growing regions. This emergency, unforeseen and highly critical, complicated by our current shipping difficulties, may result in delayed shipments of PL–480 rice to the Philippines. We will, of course, strive to fulfill our rice commitment with all possible speed.
“In closing, let me say how moved I was by your personal expressions of support and good wishes. It is my purpose that America’s example in the current struggle will prove worthy of your sentiments.”

3. If you believe allusion to rice problem in this context undesirable, para 2b above could be omitted. Request reply soonest.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27–3 VIET S. Confidential; Priority; No Distribution Outside Department; Limdis. Drafted by Robert L. Flanegin of SPA; cleared by Berger and Thomson in draft; and approved by Cuthell.
  2. Document 310.
  3. In telegram 406 from Manila, August 27, the Embassy stated that it believed that Macapagal would view these two issues in a single letter as “a veiled threat to withhold rice if troops not produced, or possibly a warning that we intended to withhold rice in retaliation for failure to send troops thus far.” The Embassy noted that Macapagal was involved in an uncertain election campaign and “fighting hard battle for his political future.” In such a highly charged political atmosphere, he might see the issues of troops for Vietnam and P.L. 480 rice only in terms of Philippine domestic policies. The Embassy suggested dropping the issue of rice from the response and trying to work out a compromise on rice shipments with lower level Philippine officials. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27–3 VIET S) The Department agreed and the letter was sent on September 18 in that form. (Ibid.)