Filipinos protest against Clinton visit
BY Jon Lamb
MANILA — Some 1000 protesters took part in demonstrations over the weekend of November 12-13, against the visit of US President Bill Clinton to the Philippines. They demanded an end to Philippines economic dependence on the US, the clean-up of toxic waste from former US bases, cancellation of the ratification of GATT and an end to US-Philippines military links.
KAMALAYAN, a socialist youth organisation, staged a 200-strong torchlight march on November 12 to the Manila Hotel, where Clinton was staying. They had hoped to hold a peaceful all-night vigil outside the hotel, but were stopped by a cordon of heavily armed riot police several kilometres away. The students were attacked with truncheons, water cannons and tear gas. Several people were injured, including one woman who was hospitalised after being hit in the head with a tear gas canister.
"This is the first time tear gas has been used against a demonstration since 1992. I think the riot police were taken aback by our militancy and became scared", John Bayrong, chairperson of KAMALAYAN, told Green Left Weekly. "We kept on chanting 'Let us pass' and refused to disperse. They then attacked us with truncheon and tear gas."
The following day, KAMALAYAN joined ranks with SANLAKAS (a federation of mass organisations) in a protest outside the Malacanang presidential palace. A contingent of BAYAN, the pro-Sison group, was also present. There was an uneasy stand-off between the 1000 demonstrators and police for several hours.
During his brief stop en route to the APEC meeting in Jakarta, Clinton met with President Ramos to discuss trade and regional strategic issues. This included the possible use of Filipino waters and facilities for the "pre-positioning" of US warships and accompanying supply depots. Pre-positioning would allow US warships to move large numbers of troops and equipment quickly to areas of "perceived conflict" in the region. US State Department officials cited recent events in the Persian Gulf as an illustration.
Clinton also assured Ramos that the US would continue to provide military aid. Ramos has recently approved a 300 billion peso spending spree to modernise the armed forces — almost all of which will be spent on US-made equipment.