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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
Philippines foreign minister named
Blas Ople
Blas Ople was labour minister under President Marcos
Labour activists in the Philippines have criticised President Gloria Arroyo's choice of new foreign minister, saying that he gave the world the "Filipino slave".

Opposition leader Blas Ople, 75, was appointed by Mrs Arroyo late on Wednesday to replace Teofisto Guingona, who resigned in a high profile row over US troops last month.

Mr Ople was labour minister in the cabinet of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s when he said he launched the Philippines' overseas employment programme.

Teofisto Guingona
The last foreign minister resigned over US troops' presence
But a Manila-based lobby group, Migrante International, said this had resulted in "countless abuses" against Filipino workers abroad.

Mr Ople is "the man (who) gave birth to the modern Filipino slave," the group said on Thursday.

Senate gain

The new foreign minister was formally the chairman of the Senate's foreign relations committee. He is now obliged to give up his chair in the Senate in order to take up the position of foreign minister.

It will be the second seat lost by the Senate in recent days. On Sunday independent Robert Jaworski, who was usually allied to the opposition, declared his support for the administration.

This gives President Arroyo's coalition a lead in the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, which will help her push through bills to deal with the country's bad loans and anti-terrorism measures to boost her campaign against Muslim militant groups.

'Pragmatic nationalist'

Blas Ople, the son of a boat-repairer, is a former journalist and fighter in World War II.

He served for nearly two decades as labour minister to former President Marcos, and then went on to support overthrown President Joseph Estrada.

Mr Ople is regarded as a nationalist, but also a pragmatist, and was the chief backer of the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement which allows US forces to return to the former American colony for short-term training exercises.

It was the current deployment of US troops in the south of the country that led to the resignation of Mr Ople's predecessor.

See also:

02 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
29 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Jun 02 | Country profiles
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