The Minister in Colombia (Philip) to the Secretary of State

No. 107

Sir: Adverting to previous correspondence relative to pending petroleum legislation in Colombia and, particularly, to my cable messages of July 26:10 a.m. and July 29:3 p.m.,48 I have the honor to transmit herewith copy and translation of an Executive Resolution, dated the 22nd instant, by which the provisions of the Presidential Decree of June 20th last regulating the exploration of public and private lands for petroleum are suspended.

This Resolution, which has been but lately published, states that various requests for exploration permits have been made of the Ministry of Public Works in accordance with the Decree of June 20th., but have not as yet been acted upon; that, as the granting of such permits would create difficulties in the matter of definite legislation on the subject, it would therefore be prudent to await such legislation by the present Congress; therefore the President of the Republic has resolved to suspend consideration of these requests and of such as may be made in future, pending the necessary legislation by the Congress.

I think it is doubtful that the Government has adopted this action as a result of numerous requests for exploration permits having been received, the necessity for such permits not having been apparent up to the present, and I am of the opinion that the Resolution has been decided upon as a means of modifying the Government’s attitude as defined by the Decree of June 20th., the purpose of which was probably to precipitate discussion of and legislation upon the petroleum question by the Congress now in session.

Private and press opinion on the subject seems to be varied and the question of Government ownership of sub-soil rights in all petroleum-bearing [Page 770] lands is much discussed and bids fair to become one of the most important issues of the near future in Colombian politics.

As of possible interest to the Department, I have the honor to transmit herewith copy and translation of an article which appeared in El Tiempo on the 29th instant.49 In this the writer discusses the above Presidential Decree and seeks to demonstrate that the ground taken by the Government as regards governmental ownership of petroleum sub-soil rights is unconstitutional. He deduces that it is only since the year 1903 that the Nation has reserved its rights to petroleum deposits, and to those only which are located in lands which belong to the Nation.

I have [etc.]

Hoffman Philip

Executive Resolution, July 22, 1919, Suspending Consideration of Requests for Permits to Explore Petroleum Zones

The President of the Republic of Colombia, in use of his legal faculties and considering:

1. That in conformity with Executive Decree No. 1255 bis, of June 20th last, by which the exploration of petroleum lands is regulated, various requests have been made to the Ministry of Public Works for permits to explore the sub-soil of unappropriated lands and of other lands, requests which until now have not been acted upon;

2. That at present the Legislative Congress of Colombia is in sessions, which is the supreme legislative entity and whose laws relative to an affair of such importance it would be prudent to await; and

3. That the permits which might be granted to-day would create difficulties in the way of legislating freely about the matter, resolves:

To suspend the consideration of the requests already made and of those that may be made in the future relative to the exploration of petroleum mines in unappropriated lands and on private property, while the National Congress legislates in regard to the matter during its present sessions.

To be published.

Marco Fidel Suárez

The Minister of Public Works,
Carmelo Arango
  1. Neither printed.
  2. Not printed.