191. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Manila Visit: Your Meetings with President Marcos
Schedule: Your schedule is at Tab II.2 It is intended to balance the close contact with President Marcos 3 with sufficient contact with opposition and other leaders to demonstrate that you are not taking sides in the current Philippine election campaign, and sufficient public exposure is programmed to establish a sense of contact with the Philippine people.

Background: Note: Attached at Tab A4 is a memorandum which covers general themes which are applicable to Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. This memorandum covers those themes which are peculiar to the Philippines. Your arrival comes at a time when the Philippines are facing many urgent problems. Domestically, corruption and inefficiency in government have reached proportions sufficient to menace economic stability. There are virtually no foreign exchange reserves, and there is an unhealthy reliance upon the income derived from US bases and military expenditures. Separatist sentiment among [Page 405]Muslim Filipinos in the Southern Philippines is increasing, due in large part to a feeling that the economic and political aspirations of the Muslims are being ignored.

On the foreign side, there has been widespread Filipino criticism of the Philippine contribution to Vietnam, the PHILCAG (Philippine Civil Assistance Group, an Army engineer contingent having its own security forces), for diverting funds away from national development. Filipino nationalism has been aroused over an old claim to Malyasian Sabah (North Borneo), and last year it became public knowledge that President Marcos was supporting a clandestine effort to infiltrate Philippine Muslim saboteurs into Sabah. This effort has been stopped, but Philippine-Malaysian relations remain strained. The development of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional grouping of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines) into a going concern has been compromised as a result.

The US-Philippine relationship, seen from Manila, is an ambivalent thing. There is much affection for America in the countryside, but strident anti-Americanism has become fashionable in Manila.5 There, the Filipinos are very sensitive to the former colonial relationship—exemplified by the continued presence of US bases—and blame us for most of their problems. Fed by this sentiment and further stirred by hostile press articles, anti-US demonstrations have occurred—mostly among student groups—and may take place during your visit. Yet the Filipinos are economically and emotionally dependent on us, and not prepared to make the sacrifices which alternatives to the present relationship would entail. Your visit provides an opportunity to reach the Philippine people in general and convince them of continuing American friendship, while encouraging national self-reliance.

An election campaign is underway. President Marcos is trying to convince the Manila sophisticates that he is not your puppet, but that he can get more from the US than anybody else, while he tries to show the rural electorate that he is your friend and confidant. His principal opponent, Sergio Osmena, has also attempted to identify himself with the US.

What Marcos Will Want:
First and foremost, Marcos will be attempting to use your visit for his political purposes, and to prevent rival candidate Osmena from benefiting from your visit. Arrangements have been made for you to have some contact with Osmena and other opposition leaders to counterbalance Marcos’ efforts.

Second, Marcos will try to focus the discussions on economic matters in hopes of obtaining some economic concessions from you. He wants these both for political reasons—to show his ability to get things from the Americans—and to help alleviate very real and pressing economic problems. His proposed agenda for talks with you amounts in part to a “shopping list” which includes financial aid to support the currency; economic assistance (PL 480, AID development loan funds); trade concessions (early negotiations on the Laurel–Langley Agreement, which would extend until 1974 Philippine tariff preferences in the US market, with reciprocal advantages for US businessmen in the Philippines); and Philippine participation in post-war rehabilitation and construction in Vietnam (a new “Marshall Plan” for Asia).

—We have informed the Filipinos that you will not wish to discuss economic issues in detail, but we expect that Marcos will nevertheless give it a try.

Third, Marcos may want you to agree to a review of the status of the US bases in the Philippines. Although the three main US bases (Clark Air Base, Subic Bay Naval Base, and Sangley Point Naval Station) are recognized by the Filipinos as key contributions to Philippine defense, they also resent the bases as vestiges of colonialism and seek a greater degree of Philippine sovereignty and control. Particular Filipino objectives are obtaining more favorable terms on criminal jurisdiction, a return of some base lands, and a greater voice in the administration of the bases.
Fourth, Marcos hopes for increased US military assistance. There is substantial dissident movement in Central Luzon, against which Marcos wants greater material and logistical support (helicopters, M–16’s and construction of military highways). In part, this may be a disguised way of gaining extra economic assistance. Marcos would also like a more automatic defense commitment under the Mutual Defense Treaty. (In the Philippine dispute with Malaysia over Sabah, he resented the fact that we did not regard the Treaty as covering a Malaysian attack.)
Finally, Marcos will want to hear your views on Vietnam and the Paris negotiations, the US role in Asia after the Vietnam conflict, the Sino-Soviet dispute, and the Soviet role in Asia. Paradoxically, these major issues weigh less in the minds of the Filipinos than do internal issues. Marcos has also sanctioned increasing contacts with the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Communist China.

What We Want: You will want your presence to be taken as evidence of your own and US’s warm and sincere friendship for the Filipino people. You recognize that there have been strains and misunderstandings in our relationship, and that the US bears its share of the responsibility for the problems which have arisen. For your part you [Page 407]will do whatever you can to reduce sources of friction and to restore US-Philippine relations to the levels of mutual confidence and respect which formerly existed. You are emphatically not looking towards a “special relationship” which would downgrade Philippine sovereignty; you recognize that the Filipinos are searching for a new sense of national identify, and you support them in their search. To this end, you will wish to put our relations on a more equal basis, and to begin the process of eliminating some of the sources of Manila’s present anti-Americanism, while maintaining our friendly relations, our base rights and other facilities in the Philippines.

You will also want to show that the US continues to support Philippine economic progress and security. You are willing to explore ways in which the US might make its aid more effective, and would encourage the Filipinos to participate in regional arrangements such as ASEAN as well.

Although Philippine concerns over the Vietnam war and post-Vietnam Asia are perhaps less than in other countries which you will visit, you will want Marcos to know your thoughts and, if possible, encourage him to play a more active and constructive role in regional affairs.

Points You Should Stress:
The US-Philippine economic relationship:
  • —Emphasize your interest in growing Philippine self-reliance, and endorse Philippine efforts to establish broader relations, particularly through regional organizations such as ASEAN.
  • —Point to the inherent dangers of extreme Philippine reliance upon a single market. (We presently take 44% of Philippine exports.)
  • —Remain noncommittal on the Laurel–Langley negotiations, but indicate willingness to see progress made. (Marcos has already raised this matter with you and me.) Make clear that the ultimate objective should be warm and friendly relations without special preferences.
  • —Refer specific economic problems to the advisers or to regular US-Philippine consultations, emphasizing the need for careful staff work.
  • —On a “Marshall Plan” for Asia, you will want to point to the problems both at home and in terms of the Paris negotiations of attempting to describe and launch a major new aid structure for Asia at this time. You may also wish to point out that the time is past for unilateral donor programs, and that we hope to cooperate with other rich nations in encouraging economic development in Southeast Asia.

The Military Bases

—Suggest that you express willingness to work toward an amicable resolution of differences which would at the same time preserve [Page 408]the utility of the bases in defense of Philippine and US security. You are interested in cutting down the US presence in foreign countries. US forces overseas have already been reduced. US base issues should be susceptible of resolution through negotiations.

Military Assistance
  • —You would appreciate a review by Marcos of the nature of the dissident movement, and will refer any requests he may submit for stepped-up assistance to the proper officials of the US Government.
  • —Any review of the Mutual Defense Treaty would need to take place under circumstances in which all considerations can be carefully reviewed and both Philippine and US defense requirements (including regional needs) taken into account.

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam and other issues.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 461, President’s Trip Files, Presidential Correspondence File, Part II. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. Attached but not printed. Nixon began a global tour on July 25 by flying to Guam. He arrived in the Philippines July 26 and departed July 27. He subsequently visited Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, and Romania, and returned to Washington on August 3.
  3. Presidents Nixon and Marcos held a private meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. on July 26. No memorandum of conversation of this private meeting has been found.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Airgram A–182 from Manila, June 17, 1969, reported Political Counselor Francis T. Underhill’s observations of anti-Americanism in Manila. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL PHIL–US)