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

6169. Subj Ambassador Has Frank Discussion with President Marcos on Recent Trends in US-Phil Relations. Ref Manila 5211.2

Summary: I saw Pres. Marcos July 5 to inquire about significance of GOP foreign policy developments of past month for future US-Phil relations. Marcos said no fundamental shifts have taken place, but acknowledged things have gotten out of hand and need cooling off. Marcos accordingly suggests putting off final stage of negotiations on US-Phil security and economic matters until early 1973.
I told Marcos during call July 5 that I was beginning to get questions from Washington regarding the foreign policy of the Philippines that I could not answer and hence felt it necessary to seek his own views. I told him that in the past three or four weeks it would be apparent to any observer that the Philippines is in the process of rather drastically changing their policies. Marcos said he would welcome my questions.
I said that in looking back to the period immediately following our meeting recorded on television (reftel) on the subject of our military bases, this subject had become highly publicized and somewhat emotional. Furthermore, the start of the campaign had seemed to be officially inspired. I reminded him that the very next day there were many items in the press quoting “official sources” or “sources close to Malacanang.” I reminded him also that the Daily Express (his own paper) had headlines the next morning “FM–U.S. Bases Must Go!” since that time there had been much pro and con debate about the Philippines leaving SEATO, etc. I paused for his reaction and he asked that I continue.
I said these things concerned us primarily because the things that seemed to be under debate were very fundamental indeed, as they all dealt in one way or the other with the military strength of the United States and its deployment overseas. I said that I thought when Romulo talked about the new “realities” in world affairs, that he left out many very important things. I said one reality, as an example, was that President Nixon in an election year was asking for a considerably expanded defense budget. I said that our administration was determined that U.S. [Page 542]strength would not fall below that of the Soviet Union, although we would, of course, do this in ways that would not violate our new SALT agreements, providing they were also lived up to by the Soviets. We hoped that further agreements could be reached with the Soviet Union, but this probably would be unattainable if we dealt from a position of weakness. It is in this context, I said, that we could hardly fail to be concerned at talk from one of our friends and allies of changes that might well significantly affect our force posture, which we consider not only important for ourselves, but for our friends and allies as well.
Marcos said he wanted me to know that there had been no such fundamental shift in his own thinking. He agreed, however, that things had gone a bit far and thought it was time that he moved to “take some steam” out of these issues. He said he was sure that I knew the Filipinos well enough to realize, however, that negotiations are usually approached with outlandish first positions. I said I realized this, and was sure that some of his advisers would urge such a stance to make the price go up. Marcos quickly interjected that he didn’t subscribe to that tactic(!). I said the trouble with such an approach was that by the time a sensible compromise had been reached, it could produce a situation where the new agreement would be criticized as being no good because the Philippines did not gain their maximum position. He said he realized such dangers and would exert such control as he could.
I told him I had been wondering also about timing and tactics. I said I had been concerned of late that he might publicly nominate high-powered panels, including members of the Senate and the House, which I did not see how we could match in our current election process. He said he realized that. Suddenly he said, “I think this whole thing is getting out of hand. Why don’t we just delay everything until early next year.” He said he had thought about trying to bring things to a head with a state visit before our elections, but he realized it was geting too late for that, and besides his government was not prepared on its part for such rapid action. I told him that there were some matters on our side that I doubted we could get in shape as well before November. There seemed to be agreement between us that a good time to bring things to a head would be somewhere around February or March. To delay much longer than that would be getting too close to elections here. He said maybe panels should be appointed in December. I told him that this seemed a good idea because there was a great deal of work involved and it might take two or four months to get everything in shape.
Marcos then asked about our “new” disclosure that we were just going to let Laurel–Langley die without being willing to talk about it. I told him that that revelation, sometimes labeled as a leak on our side, had appeared in so much of the press the same day that I can only conclude that it had been inspired by someone, as there had been [Page 543]no recent decisions or release of information on that subject from our side. It was apparent in his remarks that he would be considerably disturbed if the United States position were that we would refuse to talk about any follow-on to Laurel–Langley.
Marcos asked if he had dispelled some of my concerns. I replied that he had. He said, “Well, then let me go all the way.” He said to tell the truth he hadn’t been thinking at all about such things as military bases, alliances, etc. He said that he was so deeply involved in so many internal matters that he had perhaps relied too much on others were distorting on the Philippine image (he explicitly named Romulo as being in favor of removal of our bases). He then went on to list at least 20 things he was working on and began to show some signs of frustration that he couldn’t seem to get things done. (We have noticed ourselves a slackening in Malacanang efficiency and morale.) He listed the oil price problem here affecting our companies as one of the problems, and I took a fairly strong line as this problem is, in fact, becoming intolerable to our oil companies. He threw up his hands at one point saying that the Philippines had loans, but was largely without well worked out projects to take advantage of them. He began to show a somewhat agitated state of mind over the magnitude of the problems facing him personally. He did not mention, except once indirectly, domestic political problems.3
Our talk, which is much longer that can be put in a message, would seem to indicate that we are not about to be hit with some new demand that would surprise us. (There will be a follow-up message, however, recommending that with the short time we have to December or, even to March, we not relax with this new development, but keep our own preparations going.) While this is a welcome development, on the other hand, it is disconcerting to see Marcos personally so perplexed about his problems.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 557, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. IV. Secret; Priority; Exdis.
  2. Dated June 2. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 5074 from Manila, June 2, reported Byroade’s conversation the previous week with Marcos about domestic and political problems in the Philippines, in which the latter talked of the “great upsurge of communist insurgency threat in the country,” adding that “he might have to reinstate martial law. He asked again if we would support him or at least not oppose him.” To this, Byroade said that he “mumbled that our position on that had not changed, but added the hope that he would not find such a move necessary as I thought it would clearly at this time tear the nation apart into opposing factions.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–5 PHIL)