[Sergio Osmena, President of the Philippine Commonwealth, was present at this conference.]
THE PRESIDENT: President Osmena and I have been having a nice talk, and I thought you could come up and write a story for release when we get back to Washington. It may be in another week or ten days.
The President and I talked about many things, and it so happened that while we were together this morning, the announcement about the fall of the Japanese cabinet came in. It is a piece of very good news. Outside of that, we have been talking about a great many things to do with the Philippines.
President Osmena is just back from the Philippines itself, and he tells me about the terrible destruction in Manila-about three-fourths of the city has been destroyed. We talked first about the military campaign and the possibility of intensifying it. There are still a great many Japs in pockets in a number of places all through the Islands. Eventually, we will get to Mindanao where President Osmena says he has some very good guerrillas fighting. Our joint forces are working up toward the center of the Islands. That is partly Morro country, so there we get a great many Morros working together with the American and Filipino forces.
Then we talked about more current problems, after the Islands are cleared of the Japanese. We are absolutely un changed in our policy of two years ago, for immediate Filipino independence.
That brings up a great many things, like relief, the rebuilding of communications, roads, highways, bridges, and so forth, so as to get civilized life running in a normal way. I am not ready to announce dates yet, because nobody knows when the country as a whole will be ready to go ahead with the distribution of relief without being fired on. The relief probably ought to be undertaken by us on a perfectly definite plan. I put it to President Osmena this morning.
There are certain things which we have a definite responsibility on. It was not the fault of the Filipino people that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, but they have been terribly hurt by the result of the war. And in the process of taking the Island back, we obviously ought to restore certain damages like highway bridges, or tunnels, or highways themselves destroyed by the Japanese, and those practical things.
There are other things which are not immediately practical, in one sense. For example, in Manila there is the famous old Cathedral—which is one of the oldest cathedrals in the Far East. I think this country will want, as a gesture of sentimentality, to restore the Cathedral of St. Dominic. Other things, like wrecks and harbors with Jap ships- it certainly is our duty to take those wrecks and blow them up, so commerce at different ports will be able to function again.
Then we discussed all kinds of things on the question of rehabilitation in regard to trade. We have not yet got from the Congress a definite statement as to the tariff question. After 1898, we gave to the Spaniards, who defeated the party at that time, ten years to work out the tariff problem; and we have been under a tariff ever since, which has been fixed from time to time by the Congress of the United States after commissions in those cases have sat. I don't think we can treat the Filipinos any worse than we did the Spaniards on problems of that kind. My thought is we should maintain the present tariffs between the Philippines and the United States after they get their independence. In their present status, give them a chance to turn around before we get a new tariff, and we ought to consider the economic needs of the Filipinos as a whole.
It seems obvious that we will be more or less responsible for security in all the Pacific waters. As you take a look at the different places captured by us, from Guadalcanal, the north coast of New Guinea, and then the Marianas and other islands gradually to the southern Philippines, and then into Luzon and north to Iwo Jima, it seems obvious the only danger is from Japanese forces; and they must be prevented, in the same way Germany is prevented, from setting up a military force which would start off again on a chapter of aggression.
So that means the main bases have to be taken away from them. They have to be policed externally and internally. And as a part of the western Pacific situation, it is necessary to throw them out of any of their mandated ports, which they immediately violated almost as soon as they were mandated, by fortifying these islands.
And we were talking about what base or bases will be necessary, not for us nationally, but for us in the world, to prevent anything from being built up by the Japanese, and at the same time give us a chance to operate in those waters. The Philippine waters occupy a very large part of the Pacific Ocean, and undoubtedly we accept a mandate to keep security in that part of the world. The Filipinos and ourselves would in propinquity maintain adequate naval and air bases to take care of that section of the Pacific.
Then we talked about American technical assistance. There will be a special mission to keep us in touch, with all of this being predicated on the permanent setting up of a Philippine independent government. We talked about the time, but nothing was decided as to dates. It all depends on how soon the Japanese are cleared in the Islands. We hope it will be by this autumn, which would be prior to the date of July, 1946, set by the Congress. . . .
Q. Mr. President, on the question of the Japanese mandates that you say will be taken away from them, who will be the con-trolling government in those mandates, the United States?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say the United Nations. Or it might be called the world, which has been much abused and now will have a chance to prevent any more abuse. . . .
Q. Mr. President, do you think we will have a chance to talk with you again on other subjects before you go to the San Francisco conference, such as the proposal of Russia that it get three votes in the Assembly?
THE PRESIDENT: I think you will see me several times before I go. Some of the boys cannot get their facts straight. It would really be fun if I went on the air and simply read the things which have appeared in the paper. Of course, you know that it is not true factually.
Q. There certainly have been as many different interpretations as I have ever seen on anything.
THE PRESIDENT: As a matter of fact, this plea for votes was done in a very quiet way.
Stalin said to me—and this is the essence of it—"You know there are two parts of Russia that have been completely devastated. Every building is gone, every farm house, and there are millions of people living in these territories—and it is very important from the point of view of humanity-and we thought, as a gesture, they ought to be given something as a result of this coming victory. They have had very little civilization. One is the Ukraine, and the other is White Russia. We all felt—not any of us coming from there in the government—we think it would be fitting to give them a vote in the Assembly. In these two sections, millions have been killed, and we think it would be very heartening-would help to build them up- if we could get them a vote in the Assembly."
He asked me what I thought.
I said to Stalin, "Are you going to make that request of the Assembly?"
He said, "I think we should."
I said, "I think it would be all right- I don't know how the Assembly will vote."
He said, "Would you favor it?"
I said, "Yes, largely on sentimental grounds. If I were on the delegation—which I am not—I would probably vote 'yes.'
"That has not come out in any paper.
He said, "That would be the Soviet Union, plus White Russia, plus the Ukraine."
Then I said, "By the way, if the Conference in San Francisco should give you three votes in the Assembly- if you get three votes—I do not know what would happen if I don't put in a plea for three votes in the States." And I said, "I would make the plea for three votes and insist on it."
It is not really of any great importance. It is an investigatory body only. I told Stettinius to forget it. I am not awfully keen for three votes in the Assembly. It is the little fellow who needs the vote in the Assembly. This business about the number of votes in the Assembly does not make a great deal of difference.
Q. They don't decide anything, do they?
THE PRESIDENT: No.