359. Letter From the Charge in the Philippines (Wilson) to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy)1

Dear Bill:

By now you will have had a chance to digest Eugene Locke’s two messages, our 37602 and his back channel direct to the White House,3 which I assume has been passed on to you, regarding Marcos’ assertion that he was short changed on the original five ECB’s. I trust that Bill Jorden’s accompanying back channel to Walt Rostow 4 served its intended purpose of calming any immediate reactions at the highest levels at home.

The LOCKE messages do record, however, this rather extraordinary and curious play by Marcos; and some personal observations from here may be in order aside from any direct comment we send in on 3760—particularly since open comments on LOCKE’s back channel message are a bit difficult under the circumstance.

First of all with respect to MarcosECB allegation, I find it very difficult to believe that Marcos in fact does not know the whole story on ECB numerology. To assert at this late date in the face of well documented past history that he was talking five (or ten) new battalions over and above his original three engineering battalions simply won’t wash. There is a very remote chance, as he implied to LOCKE, that this came up in his private conversation with the President in September 1966 of which no one has a record. (This is the real reason Locke used that particular back channel to report it.) But I doubt seriously that anything in that detail would have been discussed.

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Beyond this we have all sorts of evidence to indicate the contrary. I start with your own report of your February 1966 conversation with Marcos (Embtels 1792 and 1793 of February 26, 1966)5 in which you made it plain Marcos was then talking seven battalions in addition to his existing three. This conforms exactly with the discussions going on then between us, Mata, Raquizo and others as set forth in the attached summary briefing paper we drew up here last June when the allegation was first made that we were short changing them.6 You will note in particular the attached schedule of battalion activation utilizing the original three as cadre for a total of ten battalions. This formed an integral part of the May 18, 1966 agreement between JUSMAG and the DND. The summary briefing paper and the chart were given both to Kokoy Romualdez and to Salas to show to Marcos in June. We can only assume they did what they said they were going to, and Marcos certainly understood the situation last June.

This being the case I can only conclude that Marcos has chosen to use this rather elaborate method to bring to the President’s attention through Locke that he really wants equipment for three more ECB’s as part of the asking price for any augmentation of Phil forces in Vietnam, the other elements—as of now—being the Subic-Clark road, the Clark by-pass road and a right of way through Clark for the latter.

With respect to Subic-Clark we are trying to dig out more background but believe this harks back to the Pablo Roman scheme of several years ago (participated in then by our friend De Venecia) which was abandoned when our military decided to build the Clark-Subic pipeline. The other road, as proposed by Melchor, the Pentagon is now presumably looking at. The Clark right of way they probably want under any circumstances and may thus be a separable element in the package.

No one of course in the absence of actual feasibility studies has any real idea of the price tag on either of the roads. Even Melchor’s figure seems to be only a wild guess. The U.S. contractor bit, I suspect, is simply thrown in as a sweetening ploy to make it look as if they were concerned with our dollar outflow problem and to suggest indirectly the possibility of EX–IM or AID financing. It seems from a practical standpoint to be a non-starter. What they would undoubtedly like is something approaching the arrangements they have probably heard of in Northeast Thailand, where DOD picks up the tab on certain roads on the basis of U.S. military requirements. Beyond this and as successive fall off positions I imagine they would like us to pick up at least dollar [Page 799]costs on whatever roads might be eventually agreed upon as part of the quid pro quo arrangement.

All this being said, I am still trying to analyze why Marcos chose this particular means to surface his proposals. The De Venecia proposals clearly were nothing more than a cover for Marcos’ own independent move. (All the cabinet members who sat around with me while Marcos talked to LOCKE in the next room were armed incidentally with De Venecia’s 30 page briefing book covering his projects, none of which were even mentioned.) The methodology is of course typical of Marcos, but why he went to such lengths on this including the elaborate hospitality showered on the Lockes remains something of a puzzle.

One guess is that he harbors some idea that LOCKE might be the next Ambassador here (Kokoy mentioned this possibility to Rafferty) and wanted to look him over. Or Marcos might be using this to signal the idea that he would prefer to do business with a new Ambassador who is close to the throne at home7 in order to continue the same sort of personal diplomacy he tried with Kokoy in Washington. It’s even possible he had in his mind a bit of a reverse nudge in terms of having us look over Elizalde to see if he would have the same kind of personal access to our President that he would like to see here.

This is of course only speculation, but with a fellow as complex as Marcos almost anything is possible. I doubt if he would go to all the trouble to getting LOCKE over here just to tell him about the ECB’s, since he told Jorden the same thing the same day, and the rest of it could very easily have been handled with Bill Blair before he left, with me, or by private letter to the President. I need hardly add that from the standpoint of my own future relations here in the inter regnum I trust that the replies to all of these queries come back to Marcos through normal Embassy channels. We will of course keep in close touch with Saigon on any developments there, and I’ve also made it a point to keep Bill Jorden fully read into this here. He will undoubtedly be in touch with you on it shortly after he gets back.

All the best.

Sincerely,

Jim
  1. Source: Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Ambassadors’ Private Correspondence, 1967–1968. Secret; Official-Informal; Personal; Exdis.
  2. See Document 358.
  3. Attachment A to Document 357.
  4. Attachment B to Document 357.
  5. Both dated February 26. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–3 VIET S)
  6. Not attached and not found.
  7. Before Dallas lawyer Eugene Locke was Ambassador to Pakistan and then Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam, he was Chairman of the Texas Democratic Committee.