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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Violent protests greet Philippines-US pact

Feelings have been running high over the vote

There have been violent demonstrations in the Philippines as the Senate ratified a controversial agreement to revive military ties with the United States.

John McLean: The climax of months of impassioned public debate
The Visiting Forces Agreement will allow American troops and naval ships back into the country for annual military exercises, seven years after the closure of the last US base on Philippines territory.

Following a lengthy voting process, 18 out of 23 senators backed the agreement, giving it the necessary two-thirds majority.

The accord will allow joint exercises involving up to 2,000 troops on each side.

The thousands of demonstrating Filipinos said it would revive a semi-colonial relationship with Washington and lead to a rise in prostitution.

Police erected barricades outside the Senate building in the capital, Manila, and blocked efforts by demonstrators to storm the American embassy.

US embassy stoned

About 200 young activists hurled stones as they tried to storm the building, but riot police forced them back with truncheons and shields. Some of the activists were injured and at least two were arrested.

Protests were held in several other cities. In southern Davao City, about 5,000 protesters marched and burned effigies of Presidents Estrada and Clinton.

[ image: US troops will now be visiting regularly]
US troops will now be visiting regularly
The Senate vote was the climax of months of impassioned public debate over whether American forces should be allowed to return to the Philippines.

Help against China

BBC Manila Correspondent John McLean says some people believe the agreement will revive the moribund mutual defence treaty between Washington and Manila to compensate for the Philippines' own military weakness.

The Philippines is feeling particularly defenceless in its armed confrontation with China over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

On the other side are those who fear that the agreement will restore a quasi-colonial relationship between Washington and Manila. The United States is the former colonial power in the Philippines.

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14 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
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