611.96/6–2350

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

confidential
Participants: Secretary of State
Brigadier General Carlos Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines1
Ambassador Elizalde of the Philippines
R. R. Ely, Deputy Director, Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs

General Romulo and Ambassador Elizalde brought up a number of subjects as follows:

1. War Damage Legislation:

General Romulo raised the question of the Philippine War Damage Legislation, saying that he understood that the groups which had been supporting the so-called Catholic Church bill had been instructed by Cardinal Spellman,2 at the request of Romulo, to agree to accept the Philippine War Damage Bill instead and Romulo hoped that the Department would be able to get action on the War Damage Bill.3

I told him that I knew that the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s calendar was very crowded and that the Chairman, Representative Kee,4 was not in good health and the Department had no idea when the bill would be reported out. I told him we would look into the situation and see what if anything could be done.5

2. Adverse Philippine Publicity in the United States:

General Romulo spoke at some length on the great amount of unfavorable Philippine news appearing in the United States press in recent weeks and rather broadly hinted that personnel of the Embassy in Manila were partly responsible for it. He took the line that President Quirino was doing the best he could and that he thought it was unfortunate that unfavorable publicity in this country was causing Americans, particularly American investors, to lose confidence [Page 1465]in his Government. Mr. Ely remarked that Ambassador Cowen seemed to have gone to considerable trouble to take Tillman Durdin of the New York Times around the Philippines and both Romulo and Elizalde admitted that Durdin’s stories were very fair. It was also pointed out that the stories in the American press were often based on information in the Philippine press, to which General Romulo agreed, and he remarked that the fact that the Philippine press was critical of the Government was a good thing.

3. Economic Mission:

General Romulo asked what the current status of the Mission was and referred to an article by Weintal in this week’s issue of Newsweek which he said had created a very bad impression in Manila and had put President Quirino in an embarrassing position.

I asked, if the Newsweek’s story of the exchange of letters between President Truman and President Quirino was unfavorable, why the actual text of the letters had not been released as I thought President Truman’s letter was a very friendly one. General Romulo said that President Quirino had felt that one clause in President Truman’s letter was a little embarrassing and had suggested that if and when the letter was released to the press that clause be deleted but that the Department had not concurred.6 I told him that I thought it would be very unwise to release a letter of this kind with part of it deleted, that that was just the sort of thing that newsmen liked to make capital out of, and reiterated my feeling that I thought it would be desirable that these letters be released to the press. General Romulo said he would get in touch with President Quirino and take the matter up again with the Department.

4. Communist China:

General Romulo asked me if our position on the admission of the Communist Government of China to the United Nations meant that in the event the Communist Government was admitted the United States might not later recognize the Communist regime. I told him that I saw no immediate prospect of such recognition as there was great opposition to it in this country. He said that it was the set policy of the Philippines not to recognize the Communist Government and that he had so informed all of the delegates to the Bagnio Conference. But he posed the hypothetical question if the United States does ultimately recognize the Communist Government and the Philippines do not and are put under pressure by the Communist Government what short of a shooting war will the United States [Page 1466]Government do to help the Philippines? I asked him what specifically he had in mind but his answer to that question was very vague. He reiterated, however, several times that it was the “set policy” of the Philippines not to recognize the Communist regime.7

5. Abaca:

Both Romulo and Elizalde seemed very much disturbed and spoke quite vehemently about the legislation now being considered by Congress to promote the production of abaca in Central America. General Romulo remarked that at the hearings before the House Committee a representative of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs had appeared as the Department’s witness and that there was no indication that the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs had taken any interest. Mr. Ely said that FE had taken an interest in this matter for some months and had endeavored to get either in the legislation or in the report some indication that the United States had an interest in the production of abaca in the Philippines but pointed out that this was primarily a defense measure which had been strongly supported by other agencies of the Government and as we had no concrete proposal for an abaca program in the Philippines it did not seem feasible at this late date to have included in the bill any actual financial assistance for Philippine abaca. Mr. Ely also pointed out that there was very strong support for the Central American bill and raised the question of whether Filipinos and others interested in Philippine abaca might not raise so many questions that no legislation at all would be enacted thereby antagonizing so many people that Philippine interest in the long run would suffer. Elizalde in particular was quite bitter about this subject, saying in effect that if he could not get the Philippines provided for in the legislation he was going to do everything he could to stop it.

6. Seating of Chinese Communist Delegates at United Nations:

Romulo said that he had discussed this question with the Department’s representatives in New York and had told them that the Ecuadorean delegates had proposed that the Security Council seat the Chinese Communists ad referendum and that the final decision with regard to the question would be made by the General Assembly in September.

7. Philippine Membership in ECOSOC:

Romulo said that he had previously been interested in having the Philippines continue as a member of the Trusteeship Council but he had understood that the Department was disposed to support them for membership in ECOSOC and he was therefore dropping the idea [Page 1467]of membership in the Trusteeship Council and was putting out his lines for election to ECOSOC.

The conference ended at 3:40 p. m., having lasted an hour and ten minutes.

[Source text not signed]
  1. Foreign Secretary Romulo returned to the United States in mid-June to resume his position as Permanent Philippine Representative to the United Nations.
  2. Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York.
  3. For the identification of the bills under reference here and the position of the Department of State thereon, see the letter of April 17 from Assistant Secretary of State McFall to Senator Connally, p. 1438.
  4. John Kee, Representative from West Virginia and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
  5. Telegram:1571, July 28, to Manila, not printed reported that in an executive session held the previous day the House Committee on Foreign Affairs had unanimously voted to hold proposed Philippine war damage legislation in abeyance. Most members appeared to be sympathetic but felt no action ought to be taken until the current situation was clarified (296.0041/7–2850).
  6. Regarding the clause under reference here, see footnote 3 to President Truman’s letter of June 1 to President Quirino, p. 1558.
  7. For documentation on the question of the membership of the Communist Chinese regime in the United Nations, see vol. ii, pp. 186 ff.