The Secretary of the Interior (Ickes) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: With reference to Mr. Acheson’s10 communications of October 12, 1945,11 concerning a protest filed by the Chinese Ambassador, and of December 13, 1945,12 acknowledged on December 26, 1945, there are enclosed copies of two letters dated January 7, to the President of the Philippines from the United States High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands. One is a formal expression of appreciation of the veto of bills for the nationalization of labor and retail trade, suggested in your communication of December 13, 1945. The other is a detailed exposition of comments contained in your letter of December 13, with respect to remaining Philippine measures of discrimination, with a request that remedial action be taken.

Sincerely yours,

Harold L. Ickes

The United States High Commissioner in the Philippines (McNutt) to the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines (Osmeña)

My Dear President Osmeña: As mentioned in my letter of this date13 relating to the appreciation for your vetoes of the bills for the nationalization of labor and retail trade expressed by the Acting Secretary of State, I wish both at his direction and on my own responsibility to invite your attention to two remaining measures of discrimination against foreigners in the Philippines: (1) Manila city ordinance No. 2898, August 28, 1941 which excludes foreigners from renting market stalls, and (2) Paragraph 5 of Department of Justice [Page 867] Circular No. 14, August 25, 1945 which prevents the registration of deeds which transfer assign or encumber to an alien any right interest or title to real property.

The Department of State informs me that these provisions are in conflict with treaties between the United States and foreign countries applicable to the Philippines. It is believed that the contravening provision of Department of Justice Circular No. 14 is based on an interpretation of Section 123 of Commonwealth Act 141 as amended, but this circumstance does not afford satisfactory justification. If the interpretation stands, it only serves to place the statutory provision itself in conflict with the treaties. A note of the Department of State, “Treaty Obligations of the United States with Respect to Commercial Activity by Chinese and Other Aliens in the Philippine Islands” is enclosed14 with this letter. Attention is specially invited to the first paragraph and to the conclusions of the note.

There are other cogent reasons for immediate remedy. The Department of State reports that the United States Government hopes to negotiate a commercial treaty with the Philippines which would grant on a mutual basis the right to lease land for designated purposes and provide that American nationals, corporations and associations shall have the right to acquire, own and dispose of real property in the Philippines. This treaty is inherent in the provisions of the Bell Bill now pending which also provides valuable trade preferences for the Philippines. I must frankly state that if the Philippine Government anticipates that Americans legally resident in the Philippines shall after independence enjoy less rights than are commonly granted in the foreign treaties and commercial conventions between the United States and friendly countries, the Department of State and the Congress should be so informed.

It must be further considered that the President will in the near future invite foreign governments to agree to recognize the independent Philippines. Foreign governments who so agree will desire to enter into most-favored-nation treaties with the independent Philippines. If the Philippines should decline to enter into such treaties, it may find it difficult to obtain protection and fair treatment of its nationals and products. Moreover, it appears doubtful whether the Philippines could retain its position as one of the United Nations should it follow a policy of discrimination against foreigners.

The organic act respecting the Philippines provides that the foreign affairs of the Philippines are under the direct supervision and control of the United States. Measures which discriminate against aliens are foreign affairs. To implement this provision, the organic act provides that the President has authority to suspend the operation [Page 868] of any measure which in his judgment will violate international obligations of the United States. The Acting Secretary of State has suggested that consideration be given to the advisability of invoking this provision if necessary to remedy the remaining Philippine measures of discrimination against aliens.

Personally, I prefer that the remedy be applied through Commonwealth executive action. I understand that the Commonwealth Department of the Interior has control over city ordinances, and that the Commonwealth Secretary of Justice may revoke the provisions of his Circular No. 14. I must request, as I hereby do, that you proceed without delay to take the needed action. I am requesting Captain Ehrlich, Legal Adviser of this office, to present a copy of this letter to the Commonwealth Secretary of Justice, and to offer him his assistance in drawing up the remedial documents which, if you desire, may be submitted to the Secretary of State for his comment prior to issue. Will you please instruct the Commonwealth Secretary of Justice to work with Captain Ehrlich as steadily as possible until the task is completed?

Sincerely yours,

Paul V. McNutt
  1. Dean G. Acheson, Under Secretary of State.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. vi, p. 1228.
  3. Ibid., p. 1229.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.