Message of President Roxas to the Senate on the Agreement Concerning American Military Bases in the Philippines

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Especial Message
His Excellency Manuel Roxas
President of the Philippines
To the Senate on the Agreement Concerning American Military Bases in the Philippines

[Released on March 17, 1947]


I am submitting to the Senate for its concurrence an Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases. That Agreement was signed on March 14th in Manila by myself on behalf of the Philippine Government and by Ambassador Paul V. McNutt on behalf of the President of the United States.

Although the President of the United States was authorized by Joint Resolution of the United States Congress, to whose provisions I shall refer in detail, to negotiate for and establish these bases without further recourse to Congress, the authority of the President of the Philippines is less clearly defined. I have therefore chosen to consider that concurrence by the Philippine Senate is necessary to effectuate, on the part of the Philippine Government, the provisions of this Agreement, just as if it were a treaty.

This Agreement has its basis in the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, as amended. That Act, in section 10, provided for the retention of American naval reservations and fueling stations in the Philippines after independence. The Filipino people in 1934, in approving the Tydings-McDuffie Act, expressed their willingness that American defense establishments be located on Philippine soil after independence.

In 1943, the Commonwealth Government-in-Exile held a series of conversations with officials of the United States Government regarding the liberation of the Philippines, the possible advancement of the date of independence following liberation, and the military relations between the Philippine Republic and the United States after independence. Our Government at that time, recognizing the new world conditions which had arisen and the total nature of warfare that had been demonstrated, expressed its conformity with the expansion of the scope of military cooperation between the two countries after independence to provide for the establishment and maintenance here of bases of the Army, Navy and the Air Force. That arrangement was incorporated and implemented by a Joint Resolution of the United States Congress approved by the President of the United States on June 29, 1944. That Resolution provided,

“WHEREAS the Government of the United States has solemnly guaranteed to the people of the Philippine Islands the right to be completely free and independent . . . and because of the long and unbroken record of loyalty of the Filipino people both to the cause of complete independence for themselves and to the sovereignty of the United States while they have been under our flag, and because they have abundantly demonstrated their will to independence . . . and because they have abundantly proved their capacity to govern themselves in an enlightened, progressive, and democratic manner . . . Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America that after negotiation with the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines or the President of the Philippine Republic, the President of the United States is hereby authorized, by such means as he finds appropriate, to withhold or to acquire and to retain such bases, necessary appurtenances to such bases, and the rights incident thereto in addition to any provided for by the Act of March 24, 1934 (Philippine Independence Act), as he may deem necessary for the mutual protection of the Philippine Islands and of the United States.”

In effect, this Joint Resolution amended the Tydings-McDuffie Act in three major respects: (1) it provided for the establishment of army and air bases here after independence, in addition to the naval bases already provided for; (2) it did not limit army or navy bases to reservations already existing; and (3) it gave the President of the United States authority to establish such bases, unilaterally if he so chose. I shall discuss this third point in detail further on in this message.

The Philippine Congress, by joint resolution by unanimous vote on July 28, 1945, adhered to the policy and program set forth in the Joint Resolution of the United States Congress. The pertinent provisions of the Philippine resolution follow:

“WHEREAS such action by the Congress of the United States, concurred in by the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines then established in Washington, marks a new era in Philippine-American relationship, whereas it binds the ties of friendship and mutual interest existing between the two countries stronger and closer than ever and insures, not only the permanence of Philippine independence and the security of the United States, but also the peace and tranquility in the Pacific area . . . Resolved that the Congress of the Philippines adheres to the policy and intent of Joint Resolution 93 (of the United States Congress) which it considers as an acknowledgment by the people of the United States of the heroic role of the Filipino people in this war, and that it recognizes in this action of the Congress the noble purpose of the American nation to make permanent in the Philippines the blessings of peace, liberty, and democracy . . . Resolved, finally, that in order to speedily effectuate the policy declared by the Congress of the United States and approved by the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the President of the Philippines be authorized to negotiate with the President of the United States the establishment of the aforesaid bases, so as to insure the territorial integrity of the Philippines, the mutual protection of the Philippines and the United States, and the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”

It is to be noted that the United States Congress authorized the President of the United States, after negotiation with the President of the Philippines, “to withhold or to acquire and to retain such bases, necessary appurtenances to such bases, and the rights incident thereto” as he might deem in his judgment necessary for the purposes set forth in the Act, which were chiefly to provide for the- mutual protection of the two countries. It would seem that the President of the United States was authorized to retain or to acquire even by unilateral action such bases as were desired. The resolution directed the President of the United States to negotiate, but it did not bind him to observe the results of those negotiations.

The Philippine Congress, in its Joint Resolution, endorsed completely “the policy and intent of Joint Resolution No. 93 (of the United States Congress)”, and authorized the President of the Philippines to carry on the negotiations mentioned in the American Joint Resolution. The Philippine resolution, which was sponsored by the leaders of what is now the minority party, placed no limitation and raised no barrier to the authority of the United States President to establish bases here. Rather the Resolution gave the full support and endorsement of the Philippine Congress and President to the program of the United States Government for the establishment of bases here for mutual protection.

If we will recall to our minds our sentiments and thoughts of two years ago, we will remember that we greeted the decision of the United States to establish bases in the Philippines with pledges of complete cooperation. There was no feeling of being imposed upon. We did not feel that any infringement of our forthcoming sovereignty was involved. We recognized that the purpose of the bases was to protect our sovereignty, a protection which would be furnished by American forces in a degree and in a manner of which we ourselves were incapable. We reasoned at the time, that as long as we were to have naval bases and fueling stations here, we should welcome a more elaborate military establishment to serve as a true guarantee of our security and national integrity. Naturally such an arrangement would be impossible with any other country. We would not dream of it; we could not conceive it. It was only the very unique relationship between our country and the nation which was about to grant us independence and which had liberated us that permitted the base arrangement. That arrangement was not at all inconsistent with our independence.

Moreover, whereas the Tydings-McDuffie Act did not in any way commit the United States to use its bases in the Philippines for our defense, the Joint Resolution of the American Congress of June, 1944, took cognizance of our war-time association and pledged the use of American military facilities in the Philippines for our mutual protection. This was the vital part, for us, of this entire development. It was an historic departure from past policy, as set forth in the Independence Act. The present base agreement is a happy outgrowth of that change.

The United States Joint Resolution did, it is true, impose a possibly unilateral decision as to the exact location of bases upon us. The Philippine Congress accepted that possibility. But the United States Government, despite that resolution, chose to overlook the grant of unilateral authority. The United States Government, instead, sought complete and mutual agreement with us, interpreting the mandate for negotiations to be a mandate to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on every aspect of the base arrangement. This is another instance of high-minded American policy with regard to us, a policy inspired by a desire to respect our independence, to treat us as an equal among equals, and to accord us the dignity that is our sovereign right.

In May, 1946, when I was in the United States as President-elect, I held the first informal conferences with representatives of the United States Army and Navy with regard to the implementation of our mutual defense commitments.

There was of record, a fact of which I had not been aware, a statement of principles signed on May 14, 1945, by both President Osmeña and President Truman, naming some 19 provinces in which military establishments would be considered for location. Most of these were areas in which American military and naval establishments had not been located before the war.

The Joint Resolutions provided, as I have said, for negotiations. I believed it my duty, when I became President, to proceed with these negotiations without delay. For one thing, there was the world situation which indicated the emergent necessity of insuring our national defense. A second consideration was our prominent position in the United Nations, a position which made us extremely anxious to cooperate in measures designed to advance the security of all peoples in this part of the world. I deemed the bases arrangement with the United States such a measure.

The American Government prepared a draft of a proposed agreement, a draft based on what military experts felt at the time represented essential requirements for the mutual protection of the Philippines and of the United States. American naval and military power, of course, was well established throughout the Pacific. Okinawa was a major base for both the Army and the Navy. The occupation of Japan by American forces was a primary mission of the American armed forces. Supplementary bases to support that occupation were and are scattered throughout the western Pacific. American bases in the Philippines were an essential part of the chain of defense outposts in the Pacific. But at all times, the chief motive for the location of American military establishments in the Philippines was for the protection of our country.

Shortly after the proclamation of independence, negotiations for these bases were formally begun. United States Ambassador Paul V. McNutt was authorized by the President of the United States to conduct negotiations on behalf of his Government.

In view of the tremendous import for this country of these negotiations, I decided that our negotiators must broadly represent the best talents available and the widest cross-section of all viewpoints. I requested Vice-President Quirino, in his capacity as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, to take complete charge of the negotiations, and appointed as his advisers and consultants a committee composed of the Secretary of National Defense, the Secretary of Justice, four eminent members of the Senate who are members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and members of the General Staff of the Philippine Army. Members of the Senate, Senators Francisco, Sebastian, Pendatun and Cabili, represented both political parties. I was determined, as I have frequently told the nation, that matters of national defense and foreign policy must be decided and carried out without regard to partisan considerations. This is especially necessary during the first years of our existence as a free Republic.

The members of this committee were more than mere advisers to the Vice-President. They participated in the negotiations, formed subcommittees for the drafting and revision of various portions of the Agreement, and conducted independent studies on many aspects of the Agreement, legal and otherwise, which arose from time to time. Individual members of the committee made visits to the various areas where bases were proposed to be established and interviewed inhabitants of the vicinity and ascertained their sentiments on the matter.

Our committee held frequent and prolonged sessions with the American negotiators, extending over many weeks. Every paragraph, every sentence and every phrase were gone over, scrutinized and discussed. From time to time I was consulted concerning matters of vital policy involved in the negotiations. But in a major sense, this Agreement is the result of the work of the negotiating committee headed by Vice-President Quirino. The final draft of this Agreement was recommended to me and had the approval of Vice-President Quirino and the four Senators who were members of the negotiating committee, as well as of the committee itself. The great credit that is due for the successful conclusion of this Agreement is due to our negotiators, for their skill, patience and industry. Never has there been a finer example of a democratic, non-partisan, non-political approach to a vital national problem. Members of this committee gave unselfishly of their time and energy. All of them had other concerns and other assignments. They devoted days and weeks to these negotiations. I am proud of their achievement and contributions.

The course of the negotiations was abundantly reported in the press. There were some few complaints that these negotiations were conducted in secret, behind closed doors. Nevertheless there was a concerted and, in large measure, a successful effort to give the public a full idea of what was going on.

Our negotiators from the very beginning took the attitude that no military bases should be maintained by the United States Government in centers of large population, and certainly not in Manila. It might have been a breeding ground for friction and misunderstanding. This position conflicted sharply with the plans and program of the United States Army in the Philippines. The United States naturally wished to fulfill her mission and discharge her obligations here with the least possible outlay of new expenditures. Not having conceived that there would be objection to the establishment of bases in the Manila area, the Army had gone far in the preparation of its plans and in actual construction projects, with Manila as the center of the network of defense establishments. A joint Army-Navy headquarters, in addition to already existing establishments, was projected for Manila. We, for our part, were adamant against the establishment of bases in the metropolitan area.

To resolve tins difficulty, which was more practical than political or military, Ambassador Elizalde took to Washington a set of instructions covering in detail our views and the justifications for them. Those views were conveyed to officials in the American capital. U. S. Ambassador Paul V. McNutt, as a friend of the Philippines, voluntarily undertook a three-week mission to Washington in order to clarify this situation. The result of these representations was successful and gave rise to the Agreement submitted to you today.

I am happy to report that in this Agreement, every major point and every objection we made has been met, either totally or by a reasonable compromise. Never did any viewpoint or any request of ours fail to receive full and sympathetic consideration.

The Agreement, as it stands today, is in many major respects different from the original draft. The entire American military program here has been overhauled. Some contracts have been cancelled or modified and every manner of adjustment made to meet our needs. American logistics undertakings in the Pacific, based on the use of Nichols Field, for instance, have been modified to meet the new situation under which Nichols Field will be turned over to the Philippine Government. The American Commanding General, historically headquartered at Fort McKinley, will transfer to Fort Stotsenburg. Everything is being done to grant us our wish that American military personnel and establishments be removed from the Manila area and from other centers of population. I am happy that this matter was satisfactorily resolved. I am personally opposed to the location of military units in the national capital. I am taking steps to remove even the installations of the Philippine Army from this immediate area.

The matter of jurisdiction was one of the knottier problems we faced. It is a fundamental doctrine in the armed services that a Commanding Officer must have complete control of his troops, especially in the matter of discipline. The very existence of an armed force depends on that general requirement. Nevertheless, we faced a situation in which these American troops were to be established on Philippine soil. The jurisdiction of our courts and of our laws had to be maintained. After long and intensive study, a formula was worked out which, I feel, will be eminently satisfactory in meeting both requirements of the military and the essential dignity of our own sovereign jurisdiction. I think the arrangements we have made in this matter are a happy compromise of the major requirements that had to be met.

The text of the Agreement contains a list of the bases by title and purpose, and there is a specific understanding of the area involved in each case. A description of the bases by metes and bounds, however, will be made by subsequent agreement between the two Governments, following surveys to be conducted by technical representatives of both Governments.

There are two annexes to the Agreement. The first contains a list of the bases to be currently maintained and developed. The second contains a list of possible bases which might be developed if the military situation requires it, after further arrangements between the Philippine Government and the United States. The first annex, then, is the one actually in effect.

There are in Annex A sixteen separate listings; but of these, one consists of scattered communications facilities; three consist of minute areas for installations of aids to navigation; one, of a minor coast guard station; one, of a radio station; one, of a naval anchorage; one, of a military cemetery; and one, of a leave and recreation center for military personnel. There are only seven listings of actual operational military bases, in the accepted meaning of the word. Three of these, in Pampanga, are contiguous, constituting one actual base for the army and the air force. This area, in the vicinity of San Fernando and Angeles, will probably contain all the army field forces in the Philippines, providing an almost total concentration in a circumscribed area. Army headquarters will be located at Fort Stotsenburg, and all the activities of the U. S. Army will be in that area, including an air force installation, a protecting ground combat force, and a supply depot.

The Navy will retain its base at Subic Bay including the adjoining naval reservation at Olongapo, a naval air station at Sangley Point, Cavite, an anchorage at Tawi-Tawi in Jolo, and the fleet and air base in the Leyte-Samar confluence in the vicinity of Guiuan, Samar.

All the other areas presently occupied by the Army and Navy are not considered bases but as temporary installations, which, within a period of two years, must be vacated. I am assured by American military officials that most of these temporary installations will be vacated and made available for government and private use, according to title, in a much shorter time than that.

The port facilities in the Manila area to be utilized by the Army and Navy are limited to the area established for such purposes in 1941, and will be considered, for purposes of jurisdiction, a temporary installation, and not a base. It is provided that the United States armed forces may continue to use these port facilities until such a time as other arrangements can be made, by agreement between the two Governments.

This Agreement sets forth a definitive list of all areas that will be used for military purposes by the United States. All other areas of the pre-war military and naval reservations of the United States now revert to the Philippine Government.

The number of American military establishments to be maintained in the Philippines for strictly military purposes is few, and meets only the minimum requirements of our mutual protection. The bases are concentrated in area so as to interfere as little as possible with the civilian activities and undertakings of the nation. In each case, I have caused to be consulted the civilians living in those areas, and have been assured that the retention of the American military establishments is desired by the civilian residents. In fact, the residents of a number of areas which the American Army and Navy are abandoning as military installations have petitioned the Government to induce the U. S. Army and Navy to stay on. I do not think that there is any complaint from our own people on this score.

Other provisions of the Agreement consist of exact descriptions of the status to be held by American armed forces with regard to taxation, customs, immigration, and civil liability. The rights of the Philippine Government within the bases, as to mineral resources, for instance, are clearly set forth. In all respects, except as to jurisdiction over offenses committed within the bases, the laws of the Philippine Republic will obtain in these areas. In no true aspect is extraterritoriality indicated or authorized. There is also a provision permitting the voluntary enlistment of Philippine citizens in the American armed forces, and permitting the armed forces, after such enlistments, to have jurisdiction over these citizens. The number of such enlistments to be accepted is to be limited by agreement between the two Governments.

The term of the Agreement is for 99 years, subject to such extensions as may be made by mutual agreement between the two Governments.

I should like at this point to quote the statement of Acting United States Secretary of State Acheson on behalf of the Government of the United States, on the occasion of the signing of the Agreement. That statement, defining the American policy, is our assurance that the mission of the American troops here is for our protection, for the protection of our mutual interests, and the advancement of the purposes of the United Nations. I quote now from that statement:

“Three weeks after Pearl Harbor, when American and Filipino soldiers were fighting shoulder to shoulder against the Japanese aggressor, President Roosevelt crystallized the sentiment of the American people in a pledge: I give to the people of the Philippines my solemn pledge that their freedom will j be redeemed and their independence established and protected.’

“Since then that freedom has been redeemed and the independence firmly established. Today an essential step has been taken concerning the last part of the pledge with the signature in Manila of an agreement establishing United States rights to the use of a small number of military bases in the Philippines.

“This agreement is based upon the primary concern and desire of the two Governments to make suitable arrangements for mutual protection, as specifically authorized by the two Congresses in joint resolutions.

“President Roxas has informed this Government that the Philippine Congress and the Filipino people desire the maintenance of United States bases in the Philippines. The present agreement was accordingly concluded.

“In the negotiations, the two Governments have been constantly guided by the principle of respect for each other’s sovereignty, by the mutuality of their interests, by regard for their equality of status as members of the United Nations and by the commitments of both nations to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. As one example the agreement provides that, in the interest of international security, any of the bases may be made available to the Security Council of the United Nations by prior mutual agreement of the United States and the Republic of the Philippines

“In addition to the establishment of bases, the Philippine Government has requested that a small military mission be sent by the United States to give appropriate advice and assistance in defense problems of the Philippines. This Government intends to comply with this request as authorized by the Congress.

“The United States proposed to retain in the Philippines only such armed forces as are required to man the bases and to constitute the military mission. Troops now in the Philippines not required for these purposes will be shifted to other areas to continue support of the occupation of Japan.

“The present agreement will contribute to international security and peace in the Pacific and will supplement such future arrangements for world peace as may be reached under the Security Council of the United Nations.”

We have by this Agreement guaranteed our national defense. We have formalized our military ties with the United States for 99 years. We have defined the community of interests which will bind our two peoples for almost a century. I consider this of major benefit to the Philippines. The United States is not given a single privilege here which is not for the common interest of our two countries. The entire arrangement is for mutual protection and for the furtherance of our interest, along with that of the United States, in maintaining peace in this part of the world. We are assured henceforth that no aggressor will lightly undertake to invade us.

The United States has agreed to this arrangement, first, because of her commitments to protect our independence; second, because of our loyalty during the war; third, because of our historical associations; fourth, because of America’s great desire that democracy and freedom flourish in this part of the world; and fifth, in order to advance the great cause of world peace, security, and freedom of which America is a champion today. We are now contributing under this Agreement to that holy cause.

I consider the action which I am asking you to take, namely, the approval of this instrument, the greatest responsibility you have ever been asked to assume. I know you will undertake that responsibility in the humble knowledge that you are dealing with the most vital factors facing our nation, the factors of preservation and security. I urge your earliest concurrence in this Agreement.

NOTE.—The Senate in its resolution No. 29 of March 26, 1947, concurred in this agreement by which the Philippines pledges 22 bases for the use of the U. S. Armed Forces. Five of these bases are major operating areas, while the rest are for the use of auxiliary forces, and for cemetery and recreation center purposes. In addition, there are 7 areas that were designated as possible bases which may be established should future developments demand.

It may be remembered in this connection that in the 1933 independence bill, otherwise known as the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Bill, which was passed by the U. S. Congress, the provisions in regard to military bases that the U. S. wanted to retain after independence were among those that made the Philippine Legislature reject that legislation. The present agreement calls for many more bases than were contemplated in 1933. This change of attitude is, of course, due to the last war. Indeed, after the President had affixed his signature to this agreement at 8:30 o’clock p. m. of March 14, 1947, he said that the

“conclusion of this treaty and the execution of its provisions will insure the national defense of our territory and the security of our independence not only for today but for all time to come.”

The full text of this statement will be included in a subsequent volume.

Source: Quezon Family Collections

Roxas, M. (1954). Papers, addresses and other writings of Manuel Roxas (Vol. 2). Manila : Bureau of Printing.