U.S.-Philippine War Games Protested
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ About 30 demonstrators burned women’s underwear in front of the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Monday to protest the start of large-scale U.S. military exercises, which they claim will cause an increase in prostitution.
The first major joint exercises in five years began Monday with a five-day seminar and planning conference involving 67 U.S. officers at the former Clark air force base in Angeles city, north of Manila.
The protesters, mostly women, burned panties labeled ``AIDS,″ ``prostitution″ and ``orphaned Amerasians″ by lighting them from a burning cardboard drawing of an American soldier carrying a rifle and a nuclear missile.
Flores Esparas, a protest leader, said the arrival of thousands of U.S. troops will cause a resurgence of problems associated with the former U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
``We do not want to experience the same nightmare ... prostitution, AIDS, drugs, orphaned Amerasians, toxic waste contamination,″ Esparas said.
The United States ruled the Philippines as a colony for nearly 50 years until 1946 and maintained a strong military presence until 1992, when the last U.S. base was closed by the Philippine government.
Riot police guarding the embassy made no arrests during the brief protest, one of several planned nationwide by religious and left-wing groups against the staging of the exercises at Clark and at least four other locations.
At Clark, about 50 miles north of Manila, about 300 activists burned a U.S. flag in a noisy rally that prompted guards to temporarily close the gates of Clark to the public.
U.S. military officials have promised American troops will behave. Curfews will be imposed and alcohol intake limited when U.S. soldiers are on liberty, they said.
``We are here as peacekeepers and ambassadors of goodwill of the U.S. government,″ said Brig. Gen. Jack Holbein, a U.S. Air Force special operations commander leading the U.S. contingent in the seminar in Clark.
More than 2,300 American soldiers are joining the exercises, called Balikatan or ``shoulder to shoulder.″ The land, air and sea exercises end March 3.
The United States suspended major military exercises in the Philippines in 1996 after Manila closed a loophole shielding U.S. military personnel from prosecution for crimes committed in the country. The last major joint exercises were held in 1995.
Last May, the Philippine Senate approved the resumption of large-scale joint exercises by passing a Visiting Forces Agreement that generally grants the United States jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. personnel while on duty in the Philippines.