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

1761. VP-Marcos meeting.

Following is uncleared summary report of meeting.
In substantive portion of meeting Vice President was accompanied by Governor Harriman, Ambassador Blair, Ambassador Hand, Mr. Valenti and Messrs. Connell, Thomson, Rielly and DCM Service. [Page 718]President Marcos had with him FonSec Ramos and FonUnderSec Collantes. Most of time two military aides, Brig. General Menzi and Captain Palafox, were in attendance and three civilian aides sat in back of room.
In summary, 90-minute discussion commenced with expression by VP of warm appreciation courage and initiative shown by President Marcos in presenting Vietnam bill, reiteration of feelings of respect and deep friendship of President Johnson and American people for the Filipino people and description of Honolulu Conference (HC), its objectives and accomplishments. HC described as turning point marking commencement of new historical period in our Vietnam experience. US and its allies adhere to limited objectives Vietnam “halting aggression and giving SVN people opportunity for own choice.”
In addition to fighting war against aggressor, SVN people and Government and their allies are determining how to rebuild devastated areas in the wake of murder and pillage by VC and North Vietnamese forces. This is the second part of major decisions taken at HC: social and economic development. Meeting of President Johnson with two Vietnamese leaders extremely useful and VP emphasized significance of excellent statement made by Prime Minister Ky and fact that he and his government have themselves drawn up major planning for economic and social progress. VP pointed out that PriMin Ky has seized initiative for his government in leading revolution for betterment of his country.
Impressions of discussions in Thailand, Australia and New Zealand were summarized with particular stress on discussions in Thailand. President Marcos mentioned imminent three-day visit of Thai PriMin Thanom Kittikachorn and favorable impressions of SEATO SecGen Jesus Vargas. Marcos and Ramos said they will keep in close touch with Thais and intend to hold first meeting ASA in March.
In brief discussion conditions in Laos VP spoke of determination of Souvanna Phouma to continue fighting.
After VP noted that Communists in Asia are attacking wherever they can President Marcos said Philippines can feel it here now. He said cadres are being reorganized, intellectuals are quite active and leftists elements are agitating. Expressed his confidence that Communists here will not get very far. He said if they were able to do so they would try to mount an active military effort. Practically all of the members of the Politburo of the Philippine Communist Party had been caught in the early fifties and were nearing completion of 14 or 15-year prison terms and their supporters are preparing for their release. President Marcos noted that two members of Indonesian Embassy here had been quite active and singled out Indon Press Counselor (Rudi Gontha) as having been involved in encouragement of demonstrations [Page 719]recently. Also noted increased activity Radio Peking Tagalog broadcasts.
Excellent performance Koreans SVN described by VP and Governor Harriman who also lauded Australian and New Zealand contingents SVN. Good example of these foreign forces, together with US forces, given credit for improving behavior of South Vietnamese forces which are now actively participating in civic action. With improved SVN morale and military success, defections from Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces have risen to average of 79 a day this month.
In acknowledging that Filipinos may have their problems at this time, President Marcos said that his country will extend all possible aid to SVN.2 He said he hopes that the partnership of Philippines and US will become more meaningful and said that under attack he will stand firm. Had originally wanted to send combat troops but GVN had asked for engineer battalion. Gov. Harriman noted that President Johnson and American people will always remember courage and wisdom of President Marcos. Marcos said 10,000 or 12,000 volunteers had offered themselves from army in no time at all and he had ordered army to discontinue listing volunteers.
President Marcos stated his belief that West could now permit Asian leaders to take more initiative and become more involved in affairs in this part of world. He said that strings on aid present problems and if strings at least are not apparent it is better. He said that newly independent underdeveloped nations are particularly sensitive now regarding manner in which aid is extended to them. He said it is better when Asian problems can be decided by Asians themselves “with your backing.” He cited Asian Development Bank as excellent example of this, noting that US had furnished $200,000,000 to Bank. He said Bank is “very good because it is Asian.” He said “let Asians decide and solved their own problems. We want to do it ourselves.”
Vice President stated that a principle of Honolulu Conference was along these lines. President Marcos said he had studied letter to him from President Johnson 3 and felt this point is most important. Thai [Page 720]FonMin Thanat Khoman agrees with him that ASA should be enlarged. Said Embassy will be established Kuala Lumpur very soon and this may have to be accelerated because of Sukarno’s action against Nasution in last few days.
VP said that Japan PriMin Sato says privately he wants us to stay in Vietnam but won’t say so publicly. Marcos said “I am afraid the Japanese will outsmart themselves.” He said that GOP relations with Japanese are getting closer and said only Asians can do what must be done to face up to situation in this part of world. Indons will respond properly when approached in Asian way, Marcos said. Reverting to ASA Marcos said that UnderSecretary Ingles now in Bangkok laying groundwork for ASA meeting in March. FonSec Ramos said that Republic of China should join and Japan, also.
President Marcos said Philippines will attend economic conference in Japan. He said that Japanese peace corps commencing work here. Work on trade and navigation treaty proceeding and GOJ has agreed accelerate reparations payments. In addition, GOJ apparently ready to make terms of $250,000,000 loan less onerous. GOP will send Japanese-speaking Sotero Laurel as new Ambassador to Tokyo.
Conference closed with discussion of emphasis which must be placed on rural development in countries in this area. President Marcos voiced his concern, remarking that “Communists make no bones the target is rural areas.” He said AID is doing good work here in rural development and he hopes work can continue and expand. Philippines needs help with irrigation problems. VP said it is pity to use precious foreign exchange to import food stuffs and USG will offer full encouragement to best of our ability to solve this problem. President Marcos said he believed it will help if we could cut red tape in both AID and JUSMAG. One of his targets, he said, is to reorganize army construction battalions for rural reconstruction.
In final comment regarding aid to Vietnam President Marcos told Vice President Humphrey “decision has been taken and we will hold on to it. We will do it whether we can balance our budget or not. We are paying insurance on our future. We know our friends are behind us. Aid to Vietnam reflects feelings of great majority of our people.”4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL PHIL–US. Secret; Immediate; Exdis-VP. Repeated to Seoul for Lloyd Hand and passed to the White House. Humphrey and Harriman were in the Philippines to explain the results of the Honolulu Conference on Vietnam.
  2. In a telephone conversation with Humphrey before the Vice President left for his mission, President Johnson discussed with him the Philippines’ potential troop contribution to Vietnam. The President said: “the Filipinos promised me 4500. They welched on it a little bit—they’re down to 2500 when they talked to you. Now they are trying to get a little bit less. We may have to get some economic things, look at some of our hole cards there, and take another look at them.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation between Johnson and Humphrey, February 5, 1966, 10:15 a.m., F66.04, Side B, PNO 2)
  3. Apparent reference to an advance copy of a letter of February 25. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence, Philippines) For the letter as sent, see Document 326.
  4. In telegram 1758 from Manila, February 22, eyes only from Valenti to the President, Valenti informed Johnson that Marcos had made a statement before the press and television that the Philippines was sending an engineer construction battalion to South Vietnam not only to help Vietnam, but because it was in the Philippines’ national interest. Valenti described it as a “forthright declaration by a courageous Asian leader.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27 VIET S)