The Governor General of the Philippine Islands (Roosevelt) to the Chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department (Parker)51

My Dear General Parker: With reference to your letter of July 8th last, received here on August 8th, an estimate is being prepared covering Japanese activities in the Islands. It will be forwarded as soon as the necessary data can be assembled.

It has, however, been possible to go pretty thoroughly into one of the matters mentioned in your letter, namely, the alleged invasions of Philippine waters by Japanese boats. A thorough examination of the files of the Constabulary Intelligence Office, Army Intelligence Office, Insular Customs Office, and the Executive Bureau, shows the facts substantially as follows:

For at least ten years past and continuing into the present, illegal entries of Japanese sea-going motor boats into Philippine jurisdictional waters have been frequent. In the four years 1928–1931 there are some twenty such cases of record, the great majority in the waters around the Batanes and Babuyan Islands, with one or two cases in the Visayas and one near Cagayan de Sulu in the far south. Many more cases have been reported.

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The vessels have been of from 10 to 20 tons, with crews of from 10 to 30. They have carried, besides necessary food and motor fuel, a small amount of general merchandise, such as canned goods, shoes, soaps, matches, etc. and such charts and simple instruments as are essential to navigation. In no case has any basis been established for the reports that they were supplied with surveying and mapping equipment.

Where these boats have been intercepted and examined, the masters and crews have generally stated that they had been blown out of their course and so forced into those waters, usually as a result of alleged engine trouble. The evidence completely refutes these statements and establishes that these boats, of Japanese registry in Formosa, have intentionally visited Philippine waters; have carried on some small and illicit trading; have engaged in fishing without a municipal license; have collected turtles, seaweed, shells, etc.; and, going ashore, have cut and carried away rattan in considerable quantities, as well as first grade timber such as camagon, ebony, ipil and narra.

In two cases, one in November 1931 and one in February 1932, members of the crews having been arrested by Philippine Constabulary detachments on duty in those Islands forcibly broke arrest, escaped to their boat and proceeded to sea. In neither case were they again apprehended.

It is certain that the known instances of illegal entry of these Japanese boats form but a small part of the total which occur. The waters north of Luzon are known for their heavy seas the greater part of the year. The Batanes and Babuyan Islands are sparsely inhabited. For these reasons and because of the infrequent availability of vessels of the Insular Government capable of overhauling these boats, patrolling is seldom done in that area and when done is generally ineffective.

There are two partial remedies. First, to secure the cooperation of the Japanese authorities in striking at the evil at its source, and preventing the clearing of these boats from Formosa. Second, to make as frequent patrols as facilities here will permit, confiscating the seized vessels upon proof of their illegal acts. Both remedies are being applied.

In view of the numerous important and delicate issues with Japan which at present confront our State Department, I have not felt this matter of sufficient urgency to be made the subject of an official report. I believe the action already initiated here will result in a reasonably satisfactory solution of the problem, and I submit this report in compliance with your request in order that the War Department may have the facts at its disposal when desired. It should be noted, however, that these invasions of Philippine waters by Japanese fishing craft are almost sure to continue, as the paucity of our sea-going patrol [Page 742] vessels and the difficulty of control from the Japanese end in Formosa combine to make complete prevention a practical impossibility.52

Very sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt
  1. Copy transmitted to the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs by the Chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department, in his letter of November 11, 1932, to “be treated merely as information and not as a formal report directed to any present official action by the State Department.”
  2. The Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs in his reply dated November 12, 1932, to General Parker “made special note of the request carried in the last sentence of your letter and the views expressed in the last two paragraphs of the Governor General’s letter.”