FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1969–1976
VOLUME E–12, DOCUMENTS ON EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA, 1973–1976, DOCUMENT 316
316. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Eagleburger) to Secretary of Defense Richardson, Washington, March 15, 1973.1
15 MAR 1973
In reply refer to: 1-34141/73
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
SUBJECT: The Philippines and Muslim Conflict (U)
(U) This memorandum summarizes the subject situation for your information.
(C-NF) Ambassador Byroade and Admiral Gayler have reflected President Marcos’ fears of the renewed threat to GOP stability caused by Muslim activities in Mindanao and surrounding areas. Both the Ambassador and CINCPAC have requested increased military assistance. DOD and State have provided token assistance (expedited deliveries of selected equipment) and are studying the ramifications of increased U.S. involvement related to the internal situation.
(C-NF) The problem is one of religion and Muslim fanaticism. For four hundred years the Muslims in the Sulu area have successfully resisted non-Muslim influence. The normally hostile situation has been aggravated by Marcos’ attempts to restore a climate of law and order (collection of weapons) and the simmering feud between the Governments of Malaysia and the Philippines over sovereignty of Sabah (formerly North Borneo). The active Muslim insurgents are estimated to number sixteen to seventeen thousand distributed among Cotabato, Sulu, Two Zamboangas, Two Landaos, and South Cotabato. Some 6,000 to 7,000 of the rebels are armed with variety of rifles, machine guns, mortars, rockets and land mines. The GOP reports Muslim munitions sources as Malaysia, Pakistan and Libya.
(C-NF) Immediate and positive reaction by the U.S. in providing marked increased MAP support to the GOP is not considered warranted at this time as:
– The Muslim threat cannot be considered as an immediate and real danger to U.S. interests, at least at this time.
– Repercussions, both national and worldwide, would follow any large scale U.S. assistance in suppression of a religious minority within a dictatorially governed nation.
(C-NF) However, continuation of our Military Assistance Program with adjustments to reflect the new GOP requirements within programmed dollar levels should be handled as a routine manner without publicity.
(C-NF) CINCPAC has, with Embassy concurrence, initially requested expeditious delivery of two programmed UH-1H helicopters and reprogramming of the Philippine MAP program to enable delivery of five additional UH-1H’s and associated gun systems. DOD has responded by air shipping the two programmed UH-1H helicopters, air shipping 1140 programmed M-16 rifles, and making available four excess C-47’s as replacement aircraft or source of needed spare parts.
(C-NF) The provision of the five additional UH-1Hs and other CINCPAC approved program changes will be reviewed by State and within DOD, and any reprogramming or expediting deliveries will be kept on a “business as usual” level, while maintaining a posture of non-interference in internal GOP affairs.
(C-NF) In addition to the above actions, we have received an extensive shopping list presented to our Embassy by the GOP. Presumably, this list represents a GOP request for grant aid (MAP) in addition to that now programmed as planned through FY 73. We are analyzing the list and are awaiting CINCPAC comments on it.
(C-NF) Given the current state of FY 73 MAP funds, it will be extremely difficult for us to do more than already programmed (although adjustments within the program are possible). Nor am I certain that it would be advisable for us to do more. In any event, we will be back to you after we have examined the new GOP requests.
Acting Assistant Secretary