243. Memorandum for the President’s File1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting Between the President; Mrs. Imelda Marcos, Wife of the President of the Philippines; and Brig. Gen. A.M. Haig, Jr.—Friday, October 22, 1971 (11:45 a.m.– 12:15 p.m.)

The President welcomed Mrs. Marcos and asked for her appraisal of the Iranian 2500th Birthday Celebration. Mrs. Marcos said that it had been a remarkable assembly of world leaders. While she could not judge its economic costs, she did believe that the exposure of the leaders of so many different political ideologies could not but have had a constructive influence on world peace. She had again had an opportunity to talk with Vice President Agnew, she noted, and jokingly commented that many in the press had assumed that their identical conservative attitudes made them natural allies. Mrs. Marcos described [Page 516]the atmosphere in Tehran as almost fairy-tale-like in its simplicity, with world leaders of different viewpoints all seated at the same dinner table, indulging in frivolous games and a kind of light and good-humored banter which was almost childlike in nature. The days were extremely hot and the nights chilly, and the Iranians had gone all-out to provide adequate and colorful facilities for the celebration. Many tents had been erected to house the various activities and each was decorated in a unique color scheme of its own.

The President commented that the Shah of Iran was a strong and selfless leader who was a great favorite of his and who had generously and progressively exploited and distributed Iran’s great oil revenues to the benefit of his people. He noted that while perhaps Iran’s formal government did not meet the idealistic criteria of many critics, it was perhaps the best system for Iran at this point in history since it provided for strong leadership at the center.

President Nixon then asked Mrs. Marcos to comment on the internal situation in the Philippines, recalling his discussions with Mrs. Marcos in September 1970. Mrs. Marcos stated that all of the things that she had predicted with the President at their earlier meeting had come to pass. Internal disorders and efforts by extremists to discredit the Marcos Government had increased in intensity and culminated in the detonation of a grenade at a meeting of the liberal party leadership. She stated that this, of course, was contrived to make it appear as though President Marcos had been behind the incident. She stated that Communist activity was also increasing and that the Communist insurgents in the Philippines had achieved a degree of greater self-confidence as a result of recent events, to include perhaps even announcement of the President’s visit to Peking. She noted, however, that President Marcos understood the purposes of the President’s visit, even though many Asian leaders were concerned and worried by its implications.

President Nixon emphasized that his visit to Peking should not be misinterpreted. He was traveling there with his eyes open and would not under any circumstances sacrifice the interests of America’s traditional friends. The 300 million people of Asia who formed an arc around the periphery of Communist China—Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, and Korea—produced far more than all of Mainland China and constituted the bedrock base of freedom in the area. No American President could sacrifice the interests of any member of this essential arc in favor of progress in our relationships with Peking. On the other hand, the President pointed out, certainly the time had come to at least start talking to Peking’s leadership in the interest of stability in the area and world peace in general. Mrs. Marcos assured the President that she understood this, as did her husband. [Page 517]Nevertheless, she said, a certain nervousness had resulted. President Nixon assured Mrs. Marcos that he would keep President Marcos fully apprised on a consultative basis with respect to both the meeting in Peking and his meeting in Moscow which was equally significant in terms of world peace.

The President then asked what the Philippines needed at present. Mrs. Marcos replied that her husband had been most grateful for the United States action on the Philippine sugar quota. The President commented that he had taken this action because of his special feeling for the Philippines and at some expense to our relationships with friends in Latin America.

Mrs. Marcos then stated that the Philippines need additional military assistance and felt that it would be most helpful if some of the equipment which the United States used in South Vietnam could be made available to her government as the U.S. presence was reduced. Her husband had asked her to mention this to the President and was particularly interested in helicopters, ammunition, and small arms, all of which could be used for internal security purposes. The President instructed General Haig to look into the Philippines’ requirements and to view them with sympathy in light of our overall plans.

Mrs. Marcos then stated that there were many, some of whom were in the U.S. Embassy in Manila, who expected the Philippines to react as an American puppet. She stated that this could not be, for both substantive and political reasons, and many times she and her husband were forced to take positions which did not necessarily meet U.S. conceptions. On the other hand, this in no way should be interpreted by U.S. officials as a departure by the Philippine leadership from its longstanding and traditional pro-U.S. stance. Quite the contrary, President Marcos had recently taken a poll of Filipino attitudes with respect to the United States. The remarkable outcome of this poll indicated that in the rural areas in the Philippines a majority of the citizenry expressed a desire to become a state of the United States of America. She cautioned the President to keep this in mind when he received reports from the Embassy in Manila or when he was exposed to Manila press interpretations suggesting a growing anti-U.S. climate. The President expressed sympathy with President Marcos’ problem. He stated that obviously no leader of the Philippines could assume a puppet stance and we would not want or expect this. He said even a traditional friend like Great Britain was forced to demonstrate its independence from the United States from time to time. Mrs. Marcos stated that she had spoken recently to Prime Minister Heath and that he had mentioned to her his desire to explain U.S. policies to the other powers in a constructive way, thus confirming his friendship for the United States.

[Page 518]

As the meeting adjourned, Mrs. Marcos gave the President a letter from President Marcos (attached)2 and commented that the internal situation in the Philippines continued to deteriorate as a result of some subversive activity by the Communists. For this reason, she said, it might be important to modify the Philippines Constitution to permit a strong and consistent leadership by President Marcos after the termination of his Presidential term in office. President Nixon did not comment on this remark.

The President then escorted Mrs. Marcos to Rose Mary Woods’ office and from there to the White House Mess, where he introduced her to the Cost of Living Council. Mrs. Marcos made a brief speech to the group reiterating the warm friendship of the people of the Philippines for the people of the United States and informing them of the results of President Marcos’ poll.

The meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Boxes 83–87, Memoranda for the President. Secret. Drafted by Haig. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. Attached but not printed. The text of Marcos’ October 8 letter was forwarded to the Embassy in telegram 201847 to Manila, November 4. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 PHIL)