Over the decades, relations between the United States and the Philippines have always run deep. The two countries are intrinsically linked historically, culturally and economically, and visits to Manila by US presidents ensure that the alliance remains as strong as ever.
When President Barack Obama sets foot on Philippine soil on Monday for the last leg of his Asia-Pacific swing, he will reaffirm the alliance that his predecessors had helped cement.
Six other American presidents visited the Philippines between 1960 and 2003. Each of them was welcomed as a friend and a close ally, and was feted with the renowned Filipino hospitality.
“Ike,” as he is famously called, is the first sitting US president to visit the Philippines, although it wasn’t his first time in the country. The 34th president of the US served as special assistant to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1930, which brought him to the Philippines for four years beginning in 1935.
During his state visit, Eisenhower met with Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia. He delivered a speech before a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives, recalling his four years in the country during World War II.
“Here [in the Philippines]my wife and I spent four happy years, making friendships that we shall ever cherish. Here our son went to school and grew into young manhood. Here I saw the first beginnings of this Republic and worked with men whose vision of greatness for the people of the Philippines has been matched by its realization,” Eisenhower said in his speech. (www.presidency.ucsb.edu)
Eisenhower also praised the role of Filipinos during the time of the Cold War. “We Americans salute Filipino participation in the Korean war; the example set the whole free world by the Filipino nurses and doctors who went to Laos and to Viet Nam on Operation Brotherhood; your contribution to SEATO [Southeast Asia Treaty Organization] and the defense of your neighbors against aggression; your charter membership and dynamic leadership in the United Nations; your active efforts to achieve closer cultural and economic relations with other Southeast Asian countries,” he said.
The Republican president urged the Philippine Congress to stand up against Communism, which he said “demands subservience to a single ideology, to a straitjacket of ideas and approaches and methods. freedom of individuals or nations, to them is intolerable. But free men, free nations, make their own rules to fit their own needs within a universally accepted frame of justice and law.”
The “Democrat from Texas” succeeded the 35th US President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in 1963. Commonly referred to as LBJ, Johnson made a great impact in America for designing the “Great Society” legislation which includes various domestic programs in health, environment, civil rights, urban and rural development, and the “War on Poverty.”
After side trips to Los Baños in Laguna and Corregidor, LBJ attended the Manila Summit Conference with the leaders of Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam.
The meeting, held at the Manila Hotel, aimed to “discuss the escalating conflict in Vietnam,” was hosted by President Ferdinand Marcos, who would declare Martial Law six years later. (Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum)
Just a month earlier, Johnson had signed two bills that provided more benefits for Filipino veterans who served in the US armed forces during World War II. (presidency.ucsb.edu)
“The two bills I sign today are another milestone in the continuing saga of US-Philippine cooperation and friendship,” he said.
Richard M. Nixon
July 26 to 27, 1969
In 1969, President Marcos welcomed US President Richard Nixon to Manila. It was during the year that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, and Gloria Diaz was crowned as Miss Universe.
Nixon was on a tour around the world, and Manila was his first stop. “This mission, which begins here, is in the quest of peace, peace in the Pacific, peace in Asia, peace in the world.” He declared in his arrival speech.
“I come here because the Philippines—the leaders of this country have played and will play a great role in bringing that peace. And, it seems to me, that we must think of the Pacific and of Asia in terms of the past, of the present, and the future.”
The Vietnam War was still raging at the time, and Nixon said his visit “allowed us [US] to consult with an allied government about the war in Vietnam. It has afforded us an occasion for discussing the future of Asia, especially after the Vietnam War is over.” (presidency.ucsb.edu)
President Gerald “Jerry” Ford, his First Lady Betty Ford and their daughter, arrived in Manila several months after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975.
It was the last stop in his Asia trip, which brought him to Indonesia and China, where he built the momentum toward normalization of relations with the largest Asian nation. (geraldrfordfoundation.org)
In his speech welcoming Ford, President Marcos acknowledged the role of America as a “problem solver” on global issues, and expressed his intent to “reassess these relations in accordance with the conditions and the temper of the times.”
In his reply, Ford acknowledged the strong relations between the two nations. “The years of common history which bind us together provide a unique relationship of deep understanding and of deep trust which survives the test of time. I am confident that that relationship will continue for many, many years to come,” Ford said. (presidency.ucsb.edu)
The first time US President Bill Clinton arrived for a state visit was during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos. Three years earlier, the US closed its sprawling base in Subic, Zambales, and in 1994 Manila hosted the 43rd Miss Universe Pageant.
At a news conference Clinton affirmed military ties with the Philippines. “We have an important security relationship,” he said. “The United States will be able to supply the Philippine Armed Forces with two C-130’s soon and that we will continue to discuss the possibility of shared equipment to build up the strength and the security of the Philippine Armed Forces.”
Clinton was on a five-day tour around Asia, and while in the Philippines he visited Corregidor.
November 24 to 25, 1996
Clinton returned to the country for the eighth Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. Since 1989, 21 members from different countries meet annually to strengthen trade and investment, business and economic cooperation all over the Asia-Pacific region.
It was also during this trip that Clinton visited the former US base in Subic, which was once dubbed as the heart of the American military presence in Southeast Asia” by The New York Times.
The war in Iraq was hogging the headlines when President George W. Bush dropped by for a visit. Earlier that year President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo visited the White House, and Bush was returning the favor. During his visit, Bush pledged to finance and contribute in the five-year modernization plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Bush also addressed the growing threat of terrorism in the Asia Pacific.
In a joint statement with Arroyo, Bush said, “My government and yours are pursuing a common objective: We will bring Abu Sayyaf to justice.”
“We will continue to work with our friends in Southeast Asia to dismantle the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network and other groups that traffic in violence and chaos,” he added.
Bush’s visit resulted in the 2003 Joint Defense Assessment on the fight against terrorism drafted by Philippine and US military officials.