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

3028. For Under Secretary Richardson from Byroade. Subj: Reduction in US Personnel in the Philippines. Ref: Manila 2946.2

My guess is that we are just “whistling Dixie” if we think we will have any options left when the time comes to tell the GOP about our scheduled cuts in the Philippines. Yesterday I found that all of the bases here were informed through military channels of current plans for across the board cuts, with percentages provided. No rationale whatsoever was given.
Throughout all of this I have felt that when the chips were down and the effects, both here and in our support for the area as a whole, were coldly analyzed, that things would begin to fall into place in a more logical manner. I still think this will be the case, but now I wonder how much damage may be created before we reach that point.
At the very least I suggest you ask the military to follow up their JCS message to CINCPAC and its subsequent distribution here with the follow up order that they clam up on this particular subject pending further instructions. This would give your committees and planners time to weigh the consequences prior to any further word to the field.3
In a more philosophical vein I want to pass on along to you, and for the perusal of your sub-committees, a part of a draft policy report from here, not yet finished, that deals with “the American presence.” It is still in draft form, but because of the urgency of the situation, I will send it along as it now is.
Begin draft:
In considering the term “American presence” as it applies to the Philippines, it is useful first to review the current status of this presence:
The number of American residents in the Philippines is declining and has been for some time, even though estimates of non USG connected persons claiming US citizenship still run as high at 24,000.
The American business community is half the size it was a decade or two ago. With trained and competent Filipinos available it is unnecessary and expensive to maintain a large American staff.
The American religious community increased sharply after World War II, but is now declining as Filipino priests and ministers are replacing Americans and other foreigners.
Our civilian official strength has been cut back by almost thirty percent in the last eighteen months, and if the reduction in the number of Peace Corps volunteers is included, there has been a fifty percent reduction.
Lower levels of military activity in Vietnam, and budgetary limitations have reduced our military strength. We have moved out of Mactan Air Base, and by June of this year military personnel reductions will be slightly over two-thousand.
The impact of this presence is difficult to measure. For the press critic and student radical in Manila, hostility to the United States is rooted in psychological and historical factors little affected by the number of Americans in the Philippines. In the countryside the respect and admiration for the United States is still so great that the American Ambassador runs the awkward risk of outdrawing the Philippine President. There are well publicized problems around the bases, but with one exception our military is concentrated in two relatively isolated areas in the Philippines, and the social and economic impact in even these areas is by no means all bad. There has certainly been no suggestion from the Philippine Government that there are too many Americans here. On the contrary, the Government is doing all it can to encourage the presence of many more American tourists.
It is important to recognize that seventy years of close association with the Philippines has bound us together, and that for good or ill, an American presence (in the broadest sense of this term) would remain even if every official American went home. We have established institutions here that took deep root and are now a part of Philippine society, representative government, private enterprise, and freedom of the press. Filipino newspapers would still continue to carry American columnists, American comic strips, and American ball scores. American books, movies, and products would still be favored. Over 4,500 Filipinos went to the United States for education and training last year. Over 16,000 went as visitors. Approximately 20,000 a year are now going as immigrants, and many later travel back to the Philippines for an extended stay. The cumulative impact of these tens of thousands of [Page 459]exposures to our country would have a continuing and pervasive influence on the course of internal Philippine affairs, and on our bilateral relations, even if there were no U.S. Government employees in the country.
Considered in this broader context, the number of official Americans in the Philippines is not in itself a critical factor in our relations. Our intentions and attitudes in all the complex issues in our contractual relationships, and our policy in the area as a whole, are still much more important.

End of Draft.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 556, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. II. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 2946 from Manila, April 4, reported Byroade’s “shock” at the extent of the personnel cuts to be made in the Philippines and stated that “the implications” of this decision “could not be more profound.” In regard to the 25 percent across the board personnel reduction, Byroade stated that he felt “strongly that we have passed the point where this is possible. Whole operations and probably some agencies must be taken out to achieve reductions of this magnitude, not crippling cutbacks that will leave me with nothing operating properly.” (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 52752 to Manila, April 10, Green informed Byroade that all agencies in the Philippines were required to submit lists of their positions “in ascending order of essentiality,” and that a “subcommittee established in State” would submit recommendations to the Under Secretaries Committee, which would “make final approval on programming of reductions and submit to President.” (Ibid.)