Anti-Obama protesters clash with police in Manila
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine police armed with truncheon, shields and water hose clashed Wednesday with more than 100 left-wing activists who rallied at the US Embassy in Manila to oppose a visit by President Barack Obama and a looming pact that will increase the American military presence in the Philippines.
Riot policemen blocked the flag-waving activists near the heavily fortified embassy compound but the protesters slipped past them, sparking a brief scuffle in view of motorists stuck in traffic.
The police sprayed the protesters with water from a fire truck to push them away. A police officer was punched in the face in the melee but no arrests were made. Some of the protesters carried paper US flags with the message: “Obama, not welcome.”
Obama arrives in Manila on Monday for an overnight stop after visiting Japan, South Korea and Malaysia on an Asian trip where he is expected to reassure allied nations enmeshed in long-running territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.
The United States and the Philippines, which are treaty allies, have been scrambling to overcome differences to finalize a new security accord in time for Obama’s visit.
The accord will allow more U.S. troops, aircraft and ships to be temporarily stationed in selected Philippine military camps as a counterweight to China and as a standby disaster-response force. About 500 American soldiers have been based in the southern Philippines since 2002 to provide anti-terrorism training and intelligence to Filipino troops battling al-Qaida-linked militants.
Among the leading militant groups was Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
Bayan, in a statement, maintained its denouncement on the alleged imperialist agenda of US in Asia.
“The US seeks to maintain its dominance in the region by violating the national sovereignty and plundering the economies of their so-called ‘allies’. The people of Asia stand to gain nothing from the Obama visit and the US agenda he carries,” Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary general.
Reyes maintained their opposition against the “new form of US military occupation and colonization.”
“The US military and economic agenda will only reinforce the status of the Philippines as an American neo-colony, and President Benigno Aquino III as Obama’s cheerleader and puppet in Asia,” Reyes added.
The group said it would be back on the streets on April 28 and 29–the dates of Obama’s two-day state visit.
Earlier Monday, the southbound lane of Roxas Boulevard was closed because of the protest.
As of 12 noon, however, both lanes have been re-opened by the Manila traffic authorities.
As of posting, the crowd had been contained by the authorities as they dispersed the area.
Police cannot confirm yet whether there were arrests and injuries in the scuffle.
But Reyes told INQUIRER.net that there had been rallyists that sustained injuries amid their encounter with the police.