Philippine protesters demand ‘genuine independence’ from US
DPA & AFP
MANILA PHILIPPINE police on Tuesday clashed with protesters marching on Independence Day to demand “genuine independence” from alleged United States intervention.
Clashes broke out when about 1,000 demonstrators attempted to break through a police barricade to get near the US embassy in Manila, leaving several injured on both sides.
“We cannot consider ourselves truly free so long as foreign troops are stationed on our soil and foreign warships docked on our shores,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the New Patriotic Alliance, one of the organisers.
President Benigno Aquino III, who recently returned from the US, was a “100 percent American puppet,” the demonstrators said.
In Washington, Aquino entered into agreements to expand defence intelligence sharing and cooperation on maritime security.
He made the trip amid a two-month standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
Both Manila and Beijing still have ships based at the shoal to press their claims to the area. The standoff has also highlighted how poorlyequipped the Philippines is to handle such external challenges.
Critics warned that the growing alliance between the Philippines and the US, which wants to re-align its forces to become a Pacific power, would undermine the country’s independence.
A group of Christian bishops cautioned that stronger defence ties could result in the return of US troops to be stationed permanently in the Philippines.
“The continued subservience of our political leaders to the US and its international instrumentalities betrays our freedom and sovereignty,” the Ecumenical Bishops Forum said.
It alleged that US forces had recently been allowed to “re-occupy” their former bases at Clark and Subic Bay — which have already been converted to commercial purposes.
The constitution prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in the Philippines, but hundreds of US troops are rotationally stationed in the country for training and support.
Nowadays surveys consistently show wide pro-US sentiment among ordinary Filipinos, but there are highly- visible, vocally anti- American nationalists and leftists in religious, academic and elite circles.
In his Independence Day address, Aquino vowed to protect the Philippine constitution against abuses and violations, and to work harder to eradicate corruption, hunger and injustice.
He urged Filipinos to support his government’s campaign against corruption, which he said “became rampant not only because more people in power became greedy but also because many people became apathetic.” During Aquino’s visit to the United States, Obama pledged US support for efforts to upgrade the notoriously antiquated Philippine military and build a “minimum credible defence posture”.
Several hundred US special forces have been rotating through the southern Philippines for a decade to train Filipino soldiers to hunt local Islamist militants with ties to the Al Qaeda network.
The US and Philippine militaries also engage in regular joint exercises and US naval ships transit through the country.