303. Letter From Philippine President Marcos to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President:

I take pleasure in presenting to you through Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, my wife, who heads the Philippine delegation to the current session of the General Assembly, my sincerest compliments and most profound good wishes on the occasion of your visit to the United Nations.

While the occasion does not permit us to meet at this time, I trust you will allow Mrs. Marcos to inform you on the latest developments in the Philippines. She is joined by senior members of the Cabinet, including Foreign Secretary Carlos P. Romulo and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, who are under instruction to make available to you any information you may need, either directly, or through Secretary Vance.

We have just had the pleasure of receiving in Manila, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke whom you sent with your good wishes to discuss broad aspects of our general security relationship. I found Mr. Holbrooke to be well-informed and receptive to our ideas. On the basis of those conversations, there is ample evidence to suggest that the relationship between our two countries is turning on a new leaf.

There has been much unfair criticism in the American and foreign media of the Philippine position in the negotiations with the United States of a new treaty on the military bases. I was anxious in my conversations with Mr. Holbrooke, as I am anxious in this letter to you now, to lay this to rest.

The Philippines has no desire and no intent to seek a huge outlay from the United States Government in terms of dollars and cents as a price for the maintenance of the bases on our territory. Our main [Page 996] interest is in setting up a credible and viable defense posture both for the United States and for the Philippine Armed Forces to deter aggression, both open and veiled, including that which comes in the form of illegal arms shipments, the landing of foreign trained guerrillas and the like, and disguises itself as purely internal insurgency.

We realize that the Philippines has a role to play in the defense scheme in Western Pacific, and we defer to the view expressed to us by Mr. Holbrooke that the bases on Philippine soil are meant not only to protect particularly defined metropolitan areas but to form part of a system of global nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence. Accordingly, we are prepared to play our role and contribute our share to the enforcement of world security and peace.

However, in reviewing the existing defense arrangements between the United States and the Philippines, certain deficiencies are revealed which, in my view, do not contribute to the viability of such arrangements. It had been my painful duty to point these out to the previous American administration, hoping that action would be forthcoming in curing those deficiencies. Since those deficiencies have remained, I am now constrained to bring them to your kind personal attention, since they are too vital to our defense.

First, there is to this day lack of competent radar coverage from central to southern Philippines, or almost entirely half the archipelago, particularly in the soft underbelly south. Despite the heavy concentration of hardware and men in the north, where Clark Air Base and the Subic Naval Base are situated, the country remains vulnerable to attack.

Second, as a dependable and historical defense partner, the Philippines is expected to participate in meeting a theoretical external enemy 300 miles off its coast. The Philippine Air Force, armed only as it is with F–5 fighters, does not have this capability. Neither is the Philippine Navy equipped with fast enough small-type patrol boats with accurate guided missiles for the purpose. It is our information that even the U.S. naval forces in the country do not have such armaments and equipment which we consider necessary to the defense of our waters.

Third and most important, the United States and the Philippines have never worked out to this day a common, integrated defense plan for the Philippines.

We believe, Mr. President, the time has come for our two countries to work out such a plan, one that would truly serve our mutual interests. We feel that with such a plan we would be strengthening the part played by the Philippines in the Pacific defense scheme and in the overall global deterrence, while permitting the Philippines at the same time a more viable posture with respect to problems of internal insurgency.

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It remains our basic policy that no foreign troops should ever be involved in meeting any threat to our internal security or in quelling actual rebellion or insurgency. It is in recognition of this policy that our defense arrangements as defined by our mutual defense pact, our military bases agreement and military assistance pact, were meant only to deal with aggression and not insurgency. This to us is a wise and mature policy, and we do not wish to see it diluted or changed.

Accordingly, it has been the policy of my government to evolve a self-reliance program for our Armed Forces, and this has received expressions of support from American authorities. It was in pursuit of such a program that the estimated cost required to fill up our present security and defense deficiencies unfortunately gave rise to much-publicized figures of the reported compensation or rent that we seek for continued American use of the bases in the Philippines.

I have since proposed, in our conversations with Mr. Holbrooke, that the required arms and equipment, and training as to their use, be now made available to the Armed Forces of the Philippines as an important step in meeting the present deficiencies, and to take the place of any consideration of rent in terms of dollars and cents. I have also proposed that if such arms and equipment cannot for any reason be directly transferred to the Philippine Government, a stockpile similar to the war arms reserve in South Korea be maintained by the United States in the Philippines, to be made available to the Philippine Armed Forces in the event of emergency. Indispensable to this is a program of training for our Armed Forces in the use of those arms and equipment.

I have communicated all these points to Mr. Holbrooke with the request that they be brought to the highest level in Washington. In recording the same points here, it is my hope that you will take a direct hand in curing these deficiencies.

The Philippines remains a strong friend and proud ally of the United States, and is willing to discharge its responsibilities under this partnership. I for one have been proud to express my support for many of the policies of your Presidency and am determined to show to the American people that this support goes beyond words.

In the field of human rights, where you have staked the moral leadership of the United States, our commitment is truly irrevocable and not insignificant in scope. It forms the rationale and the basis of all our reforms, and constitutes the ultimate measure of the validity of our actions in the New Society.

I am confident that under your leadership the relationship between our two countries will continue to grow in meaning and scope, and that our two peoples will find for themselves the blessing of a less troubled world.

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With my highest esteem, and sincere good wishes for your continued happiness and success.

Very sincerely,

Ferdinand E. Marcos
President Republic of the Philippines
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 39, Philippines, 1977. No classification marking.