332. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Letter to President Marcos Regarding Veterans Benefits

President Marcos of the Philippines has sent you an unexpected letter regarding the old and complex issue of Philippine World War II claims.2 His letter comes as the U.S. Panel (chaired by General Decker) prepares to depart for the Manila talks of the Joint Commission on Veterans Benefits—now scheduled for July 4–8.

In essence, Marcos’ letter seeks to re-open the long-closed issue of the so-called “Omnibus Claims”—assorted claims by the Fil Government against the U.S. Government dating back to World War II and the pre-war period. As you are aware, four of these 19 claims were settled by U.S. Congressional action between 1959 and 1963, including $73 million in additional war damage compensation. The remaining Omnibus Claims (which may amount to as much as $900 million) were carefully examined and formally rejected by the U.S. Government in 1959, at which time the Fil Government was told that we regarded this issue as closed once and for all. Both Macapagal and Marcos, however, have been under periodic domestic pressure to re-open the issue.

State proposes—and Mr. Rusk concurs from Canberra—that your reply to Marcos be courteous but firm on two counts: a) we are always willing to listen to the Fils on any bilateral grievances, including the Omnibus Claims; but b) the present U.S. Panel on Veterans Benefits, established on the basis of your October 1964 Communiqué with Macapagal, is simply not empowered to make recommendations on such issues as the Omnibus Claims.

I recommend that you approve State’s draft.3 We want to keep the atmosphere favorable for a Marcos visit in August, and Rusk may be discussing the visit when he sees Marcos July 3rd; but we can’t settle this kind of issue between now and August—and should not raise [Page 733]false expectations. (The entire U.S. Panel, including its Congressional members, has been fully briefed on this matter.)

W. W. Rostow 4

Approved5

Disapproved

See Me

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. VIII, 5/26/66–6/29/66. Confidential.
  2. Dated June 23. (Ibid., Special Head of State Correspondence, Philippines, Vol. I)
  3. Attached but not printed. The letter was sent to Manila in telegram 2483, June 28. (Ibid.)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  5. This option is checked. A handwritten note indicates that the approved “message LDXed to S/S, 6/28/66.”