1958-1960 US Foreign Policy Re Philippines


412. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5813/1


Note by the Executive Secretary to the National Security Council

  • A. NSC 5413/1
  • B. OCB Report on NSC 5413/1, dated April 2, 1958
  • C. NSC Action No. 1907
  • D. NSC 5813
  • E. SNIE 66–58
  • F. Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated June 2, 1958
  • G. NSC Action No. 1922

The National Security Council, the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Walter Williams for the Secretary of Commerce, and the Director, Bureau of the Budget, at the 368th Council meeting on June 3, 1958, adopted the draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5813, subject to the amendments set forth in NSC Action No. 1922–b.

The President has this date approved the statement of policy in NSC 5813, as amended and adopted by the Council and enclosed herewith as NSC 5813/1; directs its implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government; and designates the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency.

The Financial Appendix, an Economic Aid Annex (Annex A), and a Military Annex (Annex B) are also enclosed for the information of the Council.2

The enclosed statement of policy, as adopted and approved, supersedes NSC 5413/1.

James S. Lay, Jr.3



General Considerations

Importance of the Philippines

1. The Republic of the Philippines is important to the United States and the Free World.

a. Politically, the special relationship and close alliance between the United States and the Philippines serve to illustrate to other Asians that a young Asian state can benefit directly from association with the United States and at the same time adhere to its ideals of self-determination.

b. Strategically, the Philippines forms a principal link in the Far East defense perimeter, of special value at this time because of its geographic relationship to Communist China, Japan, Formosa, Indonesia, and the countries of the Southeast Asian mainland.

c. Economically, the Philippines is one of the most important areas of U.S. commercial activity in Asia, both as a market and as a field for investment.

Internal Political Situation

2. Garcia’s Administration. The preponderance of political power in the Philippines rests with the Nacionalista Party, which, in the national elections of November 1957, retained control of the Congress and the Presidency. President Carlos P. Garcia is a shrewd old-guard Nacionalista politician whose opportunistic approach to the problems of government, and tendency to surround himself with weak men dependent upon him politically, have, in the short period of his administration, already resulted in a serious decline in effective leadership and a sharp rise in government corruption. Judged on his record as President since March, 1957, most of Garcia’s energy and attention are apparently focussed on consolidating his political power by patronage, political payoffs, and playing off one faction against another. Moreover, Garcia has no wide political base from which he can derive support for an effective program conflicting with the interests of major Philippine groups.

3. The Opposition. Potentially, the most important political opposition group is made up of the Magsaysay-oriented younger politicians. However, this group is now divided between the Progressive Party (composed of many of Magsaysay’s closest associates) and elements of the Liberal Party (including Vice President Diosdado Macapagal). The political future of these younger leaders will depend in a large measure upon whether they can unite to form a single effective political organization which can demonstrate to the people that it will carry out a program in the spirit of Magsaysay’s honest and energetic administration. In the 1959 senatorial and 1961 presidential elections, such a unified party could have widespread popular appeal if the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Garcia administration continue. Moreover, the creation of a strong opposition from these groups might exert a constructive influence on Garcia.

4. Garcia and the United States. From the standpoint of U.S. policy, the Garcia regime already represents a sharp retrogression from the Magsaysay period, and its prospects for improved performance in the future are not reassuring. The problem of U.S.-Philippine relations during the Garcia administration is complicated by:

a. Garcia’s apparent belief that the United States must come to his rescue financially.4

b. The possibility that Garcia, in an effort to obtain U.S. assistance in the amounts desired by him, might adopt more nationalistic attitudes or reopen the matter of U.S. base rights.

c. The fact that Maysaysay’s program made a lasting impact on the hopes and aspirations of the people for a better life, with the result that they may quickly become restive unless their lot is improved.

It is not possible at this time to forecast with certainty Garcia’s reactions to the pressures on his administration.

5. Nationalism. There is a genuine and growing nationalist sentiment in the Philippines which is thus far not identified with anti-Americanism. However, a small but important group has attempted to exploit resentment of Philippine political and economic dependence upon the United States by emotional and chauvinist appeals. The political focal point of ultra-nationalist sentiment is currently the Nationalist-Citizens Party, founded by the chauvinist-nationalist Senator Recto and the devoutly Catholic but anti-clerical Senator Tanada.5 This Party is supported by an influential and vocal segment of the Filipino elite, speaking through the Daily Manila Chronicle. Although the Recto group has now officially left the ruling Nacionalista Party, its influence upon the Party’s old guard and within the Garcia Administration remains strong. Unless successful settlement of outstanding issues between the two countries is effected, Philippine nationalism will take on an increasing anti-American coloration. In any event, within the framework of the over-all alliance with the United States, and a generally pro-American attitude, there will be increased pressure for a more independent foreign policy.

6. Minorities.

a. Muslims. The largest and politically most significant minority group in the Philippines is formed by the more than a million Muslims (Moros) concentrated in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. Since independence, Filipino Muslim contacts with other Muslim peoples, particularly in Indonesia and Egypt, have been more actively pursued and have prompted Philippine concern that the Philippine Muslims may be transformed into a subversive element within the Philippine nation. This concern has been compounded by the growth of Communist influence in Indonesia.

b. The Chinese Community. The Chinese community, estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000, is by far the largest alien minority in the Philippines. The Chinese have held strongly to their culture and traditions, and have acquired economic power greatly disproportionate to their numbers. As a result, the Chinese have traditionally been a prime target of nationalist hostility. Discriminatory measures have been imposed against them, and they have commonly been the source of substantial campaign contributions to the Filipino candidates and heavy bribes to Filipino legislators and officials. Although frequently forced from the Chinese under pressure, such funds have at the same time been an important source of Chinese political influence. A strongly anti-communist Philippine Government with full diplomatic relations with the Government of the Republic of China has kept communist influence among the Chinese minority to a minimum. However, as long as Chinese Communist pressures remain strong and the Chinese minority is largely unassimilated, the Chinese in the Philippines will constitute an important potential instrument of communist subversion.

7. Americans in the Philippines. U.S. citizens constitute the second largest alien minority in the Philippines, and are estimated at approximately 45,000, including a substantial number of Filipino ethnic origin, about 11,000 United States Government employees and military personnel, plus dependents of the latter two categories. The American business community occupies a position of considerable importance in the economy and enjoys commensurate esteem and prestige. Direct private American investment is estimated at approximately $300 million, almost half of total foreign investment in the Philippines. Under the terms of the Revised Trade Agreement between the United States and the Philippines,6 U.S. citizens are accorded equal rights with Filipinos until 1974 in the “disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization” of natural resources and the operation of public utilities, and are also accorded national treatment with respect to engaging in other activities. In an increasingly nationalistic economic environment, increasing criticism of this equal rights arrangement can be expected. While most of the provisions of the Revised Trade Agreement are being carried out satisfactorily, the Philippines has never offered to implement the important provision for consultation with the United States prior to taking restrictive action affecting U.S. trade, and has ignored our requests for consultation in specific cases.

8. Church and State. Roman Catholicism has been the dominant religion in the Philippines since the Christianization of the archipelago by the Spanish. Under Spain, the Roman Catholic Church enjoyed the active support of the Spanish administration. Under American rule, strict separation of Church and State was enforced. As a protest against Church refusal to appoint Filipinos to leading Church offices, the nationalist element of the Filipino Catholic hierarchy broke away in 1898 to establish what became the Aglipayan Church. This and various other Protestant churches attracted those who had opposed the Catholic Church’s role during the Spanish period. During the American period and the first years of independence, the Roman Catholic Church was preoccupied with problems of reorganization and reconstruction as well as with adjustment to the new status of the nation. In recent years, the Church has reasserted its claim to an official position as the dominant religious force in the Philippines, and issues and problems of relations between Church and State have again captured public attention. The struggle between Catholic Action and the anti-clerical group, which comprises both Catholics and non-Catholics, has for the most part taken place in politics and education where the Church is resuming an active political role and seeking to control the public school curriculum. In their attacks on the Catholic Church’s open involvement in politics, its opponents point to the long history of Church opposition to reforms and to greater autonomy for Filipinos.

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