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Americans in Philippines Face Growing Security Fears

May 16, 1990

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Americans in the Philippines, long accustomed to deferential treatment in the country the United States once ruled, still live the good life here, but safety is a growing concern.

Ordinary Americans often live in opulence undreamed of by poorer Filipinos. Many have homes in in plush residential districts guarded by private security firms, away from the noise, pollution and rundown conditions of even middle- class Manila neighborhoods.

But in the past two weeks, three U.S. enlisted men have been slain by suspected Communist rebels, bringing to eight the number of Americans slain in politically motivated attacks since April 1989.

There is no widespread panic in the 140,000-member American community, but there is a sense of unease.

″Everyone is aware of the threat,″ said Mark Blacker, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines. ″We all live with a little bit of apprehension.″

Concern is greatest among American diplomats and military personnel, believed to be the rebels’ primary targets. Senior diplomats now drive in cars without diplomatic license plates and vary their routes to work. Armed guards screen visitors at their homes.

″We used to drive up to Clark (Air Base) every week to shop in the commissary,″ said the wife of one American diplomat, who spoke on condition her name not be published. ″But no more. People think the area around the bases is just too risky.″

It was near Clark that two young airmen were slain Sunday.

The U.S. military’s Far East Network airs frequent security warnings, including advice against wearing uniforms off base.

Children of officers assigned to the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group are forbidden from giving their home addresses and telephone numbers, even to the staff of schools they attend.

Security concerns of Americans were heightened by December’s bloody attempt to topple the government of President Corazon Aquino. The coup bid was crushed with the help of U.S. jets.

But fears were fueled by persistent rumors of a fresh coup attempt and continued threats from Communist rebels.

″We will not stop until all U.S. bases and all American occupational soldiers are kicked out of our country,″ said Communist rebels who claimed responsibility for Sunday’s killings.

The slayings came on the eve of U.S.-Philippine talks on the future of the six American military bases in the Philippines.

Those talks have pumped up nationalist sentiment among the 60 million Filipinos, many of whom view the bases as a vestige of U.S. colonial rule.

Many Filipinos believe the United States, which ruled the Philippines from 1898 until independence in 1946, still dominates their nation economically, culturally and politically.

Some examples of that can be seen in everyday life. Americans are addressed as ″Sir″ or ″Ma’am″ while other foreigners generally are not. Police often ignore Americans’ minor traffic violations.

But such treatment does little to calm anxiety.

After Sunday’s killings, the off-base movements of 40,000 military personnel, civilian Defense Department employees and dependents were restricted. Such warnings are becoming common.

Several American families said they had curtailed the nightlife of their teen-age children. They said they planned summer vacations in the United States after foreign schools close in June.

The American Womens’ Club has noted a sharp decline in attendance at social functions because British, Australian and New Zealand nationals have been advised by their embassies to stay away from places where Americans gather.

″We used to go somewhere every weekend,″ said the wife of one American businessman, speaking on condition of anonymity. ″Now, I just travel between my home and the supermarket.″

Last March, the commander of the rebel army, Romulo Kintanar, said the guerrillas would not target American civilians who had no links to the counterinsurgency.

Officials acknowledge that if the rebels expanded their targets to civilians, guaranteeing their safety would be impossible.

Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Biazon, chief of the National Capital Region Defense Command, pointed to the huge number of potential American targets.

″How can we protect them all?″ he said.

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