The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War (Woodring)

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Referring to the penultimate paragraph of my letter of January 13, 1937, in regard to certain questions affecting relations between foreign consuls in the Philippine Islands [Page 983] and the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines, I am enclosing the draft of a memorandum on this subject which this Department proposes to send to the diplomatic missions in Washington of those governments maintaining consular representatives in the Philippines.

Although it is difficult to devise and establish comprehensive rules to govern the relationship between foreign consular officers in the Philippines on the one hand and officials of the United States Government and the Commonwealth Government on the other hand, it is believed that the procedure outlined in the attached memorandum should be of help in this regard. Matters not covered therein can be taken care of as they arise in the light of attendant circumstances.

This Department is prepared to permit foreign consular officers to take up directly with the local authorities in the Philippine Islands matters of a non-political nature relating to the protection of the rights and interests of their nationals. It was prompted to authorize this direct approach to the local authorities because of the difficulties experienced by American officials stationed in dominions and possessions of countries which attempt to deny consular officers the right of communication with local officials. Moreover, some of the treaties between the United States and foreign countries concede the right of foreign consular officers to approach the local authorities. The memorandum does provide, however, that subjects of a political character and questions relating to exequaturs and changes in career personnel, visits of foreign war vessels and airplanes, and other formal matters shall be dealt with as usual through diplomatic channels.

Before circularizing the proposed memorandum, this Department desires to have the comments of the War Department.

Sincerely yours,

Cordell Hull

Draft Memorandum From the Department of State to Those Diplomatic Missions in Washington Whose Governments Maintain Consular Representatives in the Philippine Islands

Relationship of Foreign Consular Officials in the Philippines With the United States High Commissioner and Officials of the Commonwealth Government

The present government in the Philippine Islands, legally designated as the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands, was established pursuant to the provisions of the Philippine Independence Act (Public No. 127, 73d Congress [H. R. 8573]1).2

[Page 984]

The Independence Act provides that, on the 4th day of July immediately following the expiration of a period of ten years from the date of the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government (that is, on July 4, 1946), the President of the United States shall by proclamation withdraw all rights of sovereignty over the Islands then exercised by the United States (Section 10 (a)). Although the Act grants to the Commonwealth Government a large measure of autonomy, the sovereignty of the United States is retained until relinquished by the President’s proclamation. Pending the relinquishment of sovereignty, certain definite limitations have been placed on the functions and authority of the Commonwealth Government. In this connection, it is pertinent to the purpose of this memorandum to refer to the clause in the Act which stipulates that foreign affairs are under the direct supervision and control of the United States (Section 2 (a) (10)).

The United States High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands is the representative of the President of the United States (Section 7 (4)). The position of the President of the Commonwealth is somewhat analogous to that of the governor of a state of the United States. He ranks with but after the High Commissioner.

The United States maintains a consular officer in Manila. His duties in the Islands are, however, restricted to the performance of notarial acts and other services in connection with the administration of the United States immigration laws (Section 8 (a) (3)).

Foreign consular officials stationed in the Philippines may appropriately address and appeal to the local authorities, throughout the extent of their consular districts, for the purpose of protecting the rights and interests of their nationals. Should the local authorities fail to give satisfaction, appeal may be made directly to the High Commissioner. It is desirable, however, that written communications addressed to the local authorities be prepared in duplicate and a copy forwarded to the office of the High Commissioner. Subjects of a political character, and questions relating to exequaturs and changes in career personnel, visits of foreign war vessels and airplanes, and other formal matters should, of course, be dealt with as usual through diplomatic channels.

Identic memoranda are being forwarded to those diplomatic missions in Washington whose governments maintain consular representatives in the Philippines.

  1. Brackets appear in the original.
  2. Approved March 24, 1934; 48 Stat. 456.