Gareth Jones

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Colony Fears Freedom it has Found.

By Gareth Jones
March/April 1935

 Thousands of Islands with sandy shores lined with palms a land where every sunset is a Turneresque splendour, where little negritos - dwarf Negroes – scamper away at the sight of foreigners, where in the south even fez-covered Mohammedans live and where there is a nucleus of civilisation in the capital city, Manila — such are the Philippines, which were conquered by the Americans from Spain in 1898. 

Since that date, although, they have been pampered and petted by the Americans to such an extent that they now have the highest standard of living in Asia, the Filipino politicians have been crying for independence until the United States Congress granted it to them. 

For ten years the islands are to be a Commonwealth, and then in about 1946 a, new nation, having east off the “shackles” - shackles of velvet and gold, in my view - of American domination will rise in, the most strategic and central point of the Western Pacific; the- Philippines Republic will be born. 

I arrived not many hours after President Roosevelt had signed the Constitu­tion giving ultimate freedom to the Filipinos, who are mainly of the Malay rate. “What rejoicing there will be”! 

I reflected “I shall witness the ecstasy of one of the only nations in the world, if not the only nation, which has attained independence without fighting. I shall see the unique example of a great Power, which has given absolute freedom, to a colon.  There is no parallel to this in the history of colonialism.  What joy I shall see!” 

I made my way through the city of Manila watched the, high pony-drawn two-wheeled carriages admired the vast coloured puffs which the women wear over their shoulders and over the tops of their arms, and was surprised to see the men wearing delicately-hued shirts with designs of flowers and of leaves upon them.   

No Joy in Freedom 

I called upon some of the leading politicians, upon journalists, upon consuls, and upon, American businessmen, I soon learned that there is no joy in the Philippines at the coming of freedom, that American politicians have treated the Islands with ruthlessness and unscrupulousness, that Congress merely passed the Act granting freedom to the Philippines in order to get rid of Filipino competition in sugar, cordage, coconut oil (from which margarine is made) and other products, and that everyone looks to the next 20 years with terror.       

The Filipinos are quaking with dread at a future without American help, and they realise now that “independence” was a politicians’ parrot-cry to arouse the emotions of the ignorant masses. 

Several of those to whom I talked during my stay in the Philippines said to me, “You come from Wales?  That is the home of one of the greatest authorities on the Philippines, Mr Ifor Powell, now at Barry.  Few people in the world have such a minute knowledge of our problems.  His library on the Philippines as one of the best ever collected.  He will be able to tell you that absolute freedom offers no bright prospect for the Filipinos.” 

Fear of Japan

 Why, then, do the Filipinos fear independence when they have been crying for it for years? 

The first reason is the belief that Japan will step in and conquer the Islands. 

“We will be giving up dependence upon America and merely exchanging it for dependence upon Japan,” stated one Filipino to me.  “The Japanese will dominate us even if they do not conquer us in a military way.  There will be Japanese commercial penetration, which will be so thorough that we will not be able to call our souls our own.” 

The British at Manila and in the Far East share this fear of Japan.  The British are alarmed at the Ameri­cans leaving the Philippines. 

“ It will mean that Japan will have complete mastery of the Western Pacific and will control the routes to Australia and to the Dutch East Indies.  It will place the Japanese only a short distance from the oilfields of Royal Dutch in Borneo.” 

Even if the Japanese do not enter the Philippines, the Filipinos fear an economic catastrophe it they are left to their own resources. 

At present they have Free Trade with America and they send 86 per cent, of their exports to the United States.  

High Tariffs 

They are gradually to have high tariffs placed upon their goods entering America until they will find their market closed.  

If the Americans do not buy their sugar and coconut oil and cordage they will be ruined.  The sugar Industry is faced with doom, because it depends entirely on the American market, which it will lose if high tariffs are placed upon Filipino sugar. 

This economic disaster which every-body prophesies for the Philippines will, bring internal trouble, and in the Filipino Constitution vast powers are given to the future President to deal with disorder.   

Bloodshed and rioting are foreseen when independence comes, because on the sugar estates and in the towns thousands will be thrown out of employment through the loss of the present free trade market in America. 

It is feared that this disorder will have an effect upon the Roman Catholic Church, which is immensely rich in the Philippines, and owns estates companies and banks. 

Battle Against Church  

“The Philippines may become another Mexico or Spain, and there may be a battle against the wealth of the Church, and even confiscation of the Church lands,” was a prophecy often made to me.   Many Roman Catholics fear the day when American protection is withdrawn and when the cry: “Down with the Pope may reverberate even in areas which are now almost entirely Roman Catholic.  

The loss of democracy and the creation of a dictatorship are feared, if the Filipinos gain their freedom.  “We are accustomed to be ruled in an absolutist way. We will become the next dictatorship.”  Those are remarks one often hears from responsible authorities in the Philippines.  

The prospects are therefore bleak - a probable economic crash in 10 years time, a coming dictatorship, fear of bloodshed, and, in addition, a large educated class of doctors and lawyers without scope for their activities.  

Thus Filipinos, regretting their former zeal for freedom, hope that some link with the United States will be maintained.  “What we want is political freedom, but an economic association with America,” they say.  

Link May be Maintained

Perhaps the link will yet be maintained, they say, because there are still 10 years before the Republic is declared. 

The United States may realise the immense mineral wealth of the Philippines, the recently discovered vast deposits of chromite, so valuable for war materials, the uses of coconut oil in making bombs, and the richness of the iron ore, which is said to be of the highest quality in the Far East. 

There is a chance that America, rather than let these essentials for war be controlled by Japan, will keep her grip on the Philippines. 

The decision will depend on Washington’s answer to the question: “ Will the United States remain in the Far East?“  


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