896.16/4–1852: Telegram

No. 309
The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the Philippines


3197. For Emb and STEM from State and MSA. Re Hardie Report on Phil Land Tenure Reform.1 Inter-Agency Comite on Land Reform after careful review and analysis endorsed on Apr 17 report in fol terms:

“This report is sound, feasible and adequate for that segment of land reform which it deals with, namely conditions of land tenure. It meets, insofar as land tenure is concerned, the requirements of the present economic, social, and political situation in the Phils. It is in accord with the recommendations of the Bell Mission Report, the Quirino–Foster Agreement of Mar [April] 27, 19512 and the joint resolution of the Phil Congress, No. 23, Feb 2, 1951.

“It is strongly recommended that the Emb and the STEM at Manila support by all possible means the recommendations of the report. Time is of the essence. The rural people of the Phils shld know promptly that their Govt means to take immediate and specific action to improve the land tenure situation in their country, and this endeavor will enjoy the full support of the US Govt.

“The recommendations in re to (1) creation of owner-cultivators of family-sized farms, (2) creation and maintenance of fair tenancy [Page 493] practices and (3) strengthening the minimum wage law are sound as to over-all objectives and procedure. The recommendations with reference to (4) trans and registration of land titles and (5) improvement of inheritance laws are absolutely necessary in order to complement the other recommended action. The gen authority requested and the administrative procedure outlined appear to be adequate and desirable.

“The Comite has not concerned itself with the details of legislative proposals contained in the report and considers that these are properly matters for the attn of the Phil Govt.

“The Comite is pleased to note that the Emb and STEM are giving consideration to several other segments of land reform which are also essential in the Phils. The Comite believes that there is need for prompt action in: (1) expanding the land settlement program and in strengthening it with appropriate safeguards to assure its long-time effectiveness, (2) providing adequate rural credit facilities, both public, coop and private, to meet the needs of the small farmer, whether owner or tenant, (3) improving marketing facilities so that the small farmer receives an equitable share of the market value of his produce, (4) encouraging institutions, such as cooperatives and farm organizations, through which the farmers themselves can contribute toward improving their lot and protecting their interest, (5) encouraging small industries in rural areas through which farmers can utilize their spare time to supplement their farm income, and (6) increasing the farmers’ income by expanding production through the use of improved agri practices.”3

  1. The report had been prepared by Robert S. Hardie, Land Tenure Specialist with the Mutual Security Agency in the Philippines.
  2. For text, see TIAS No. 2498; printed in 3 UST 3707. For related documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 2, pp. 1523 ff.
  3. On Dec. 15, William S.B. Lacy, Counselor of Embassy and Deputy Chief of Mission at Manila, wrote to Philip W. Bonsal, Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs, on the subject of land reform in the Philippines. Lacy’s letter contains the following passages:

    “On land reform I regret to report that there has been no progress at all on the main question, the redistribution of large private estates owned by absentee landlords. The President has indicated to the Ambassador that this whole subject is distasteful to him, and we have found very little support for it elsewhere in the Government. Within the last week the President has announced that the Government was abandoning its policy of purchasing private lands for resale to tenants, giving as his reason that the Government had no money with which to continue this program. The possibility that this Administration can be prevailed upon to undertake a mandatory land transfer program is more remote than ever. The setting aside of idle public lands, for sale to small homesteaders in 10-hectare plots, for payment in kind, is as far as the Government has yet shown any indication of willingness to go. By such a program, coupled with well-publicized exhortations to the Land Registration Office to expedite the issuance of titles, and to issue them without favoritism on a first-come-first-served basis, the Government is attempting to deal with and dismiss the land reform question.

    “In deference to a specific request that the Hardie Report not be disseminated, which the President made to him in the course of recent conference on defense questions, the Ambassador has not given this Report the circulation he had intended. He has provided a few copies, on individual request, to the President of the Senate, a few Senators, and other officials, and three or four were handed to local American newspaper men for their background information. Copies will continue to be given out to responsible persons asking for them. The Report has received no outside attention of Government circles, and within the Government the few individuals who have read it have tended to shy away from discussion of it. I have not heard of specific parts of the Report having been singled out as inaccurate, but as you know, neither the Embassy nor STEM considered it perfect.

    “To accomplish the land reform we want, I fear we have a long and difficult road ahead.” (796.00/12–1552)