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

1393. Subj: Conversation with Marcos on Central Luzon.

I took departing AID Director Haraldson to say goodbye to Marcos yesterday and the latter asked me to remain afterwards for a private talk.
Marcos said he was going to clean up Central Luzon once and for all. He wanted to start the process within the next thirty days, but he wanted to know first whether he would have our support. I asked what he had in mind, and he quickly pointed out that all he had in mind was for us to supply military items. He said he was worried about the level of ammunition for his armed forces, the need for more M–16’s and helicopters. I reminded him that we were momentarily in the process of bringing side arm ammunition up to date. He said he appreciated our quick action in this particular matter.
Marcos said that all eyes were focused on Manila whereas the real impetus for many of the troubles in Manila, and the real danger for the future, lies in Central Luzon. He said training camps were [Page 446]being set up in extremely inaccessible spots. He mentioned one that appeared being set up for about 100 men and another for 300 and that if he tried to drop 50 troopers in these areas using his present 5 helicopters they would be wiped out. He said any support that these camps were getting at this point from outside sources was negligible, but it looked like subversive forces were being formed which, when in being, might expect outside support.
He then dwelled at some length over the perennial disagreement here between his people and our JUSMAG over the level of supply of ammunition that should be in Philippine hands. (This has indeed been a problem over the years and it has often appeared to our people that it is more emotional than logical. We hope this problem will eventually be solved when their own ammunition factory comes into operation in late 1971. In the meantime, I think in judging them on this score we must be conscious of the psychological factors involved in having one’s source of ammunition in foreign hands.)
What Marcos is asking for in effect is quick action on our part on some initial supply items so that he could plan his operations well prior to the beginning of the rains, and in addition to that some proof that we would continue to stand behind them for replenishment of used items. All this, of course, gives us quite a problem. In its broadest aspects I suppose he is trying to prove once again to himself that we will support him, but even more broader still may be putting us to the test on the Nixon Doctrine,2 i.e., the Phils will do the job themselves but will need logistic support.
It is, of course, very much in our interests that Central Luzon be cleaned up and Communist oriented armed groupings there not be allowed to expand and organize under the umbrella of the current general situation here. We also have to think of the importance of operations at Clark Field and of our people in that area. To take the extreme, the terrain is such that a few hostile mortars in the hills could make for a very difficult situation at Clark.
One trouble in the past in this situation is that no President since Magsaysay has been willing to tackle the political aspects of changing the situation in Central Luzon. If Marcos really means it this time he is going to have to ride rough shod over local politicians of some stature. He is also going to have to move on civic action aspects of the problem and he has, of course, made one move by sending PHILCAG [Page 447]to that area, and another by starting air mobile operations in the area using available lift.
I would like to find some way to satisfy any legitimate concern Marcos may have as to our physical support for meaningful items and yet protect us from those that would not really be meaningful. We have already been able to move on some items and this has been very useful to us here. I do believe a few more helicopters makes sense and have recommended we try to find somewhere five more at an early date. I have just sent a message suggesting how we might be able to handle another roughly 1,200 M–16’s.
This leaves the question of the level of supply of ammunition which we will support here. I would like to find some means of meeting this problem, which I would assess as being about half real and half psychological, and do it in a way that would not cost us much money (which we do not have in our program), and also in a way that would give us freedom of action to judge how the Phils perform in this task. It seems to me that there should be some middle course to satisfy these rather somewhat conflicting criteria.
I have not as yet had time to thoroughly explore this with JUSMAG, but am wondering whether we could not move into Subic for storage from depots in Japan or Okinawa an additional increment of supply above the 30 day base for their main line weapons. We would then be in a position to tell Marcos that the stuff was close by and could be drawn on as necessary to keep their levels at a satisfactory rate as ammunition was expended. It might be a bit hard to do this without giving the impression that we want to wait to see how he performs. Off hand I would think it could be presented to him primarily as a budgetary device because there was no immediate money in the program available and we would not need any as long as the ammunition was still in our hands/with him, however, knowing that it was close at hand. I am fully aware that any such apparently simple plan would be full of logistical and statistical nightmares but suppose it could be done nonetheless if our overall interests would so dictate.
We will be exploring these matters further and this message is to give a feeling of things here and to lay the setting for possible future message through both State and Defense channels.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–7 PHIL. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC, CHJUSMAG, and CINCPACREPPHIL.
  2. For further documentation concerning the Nixon Doctrine, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. I, Documents 5, 46, and 52. The Nixon Doctrine generally stated that, while the United States would honor its commitments and help its allies, Asian countries would bear the main burden of defending themselves.