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Protests meet joint Philippine-U.S. military exercise, revives anti-American rhetoric

(Xinhua)

14:03, April 17, 2012

MANILA, April 17 (Xinhua) -- The joint military exercise conducted yearly by the Philippines and the United States, known as "Balikatan" (shoulder to shoulder), which started Monday, was met with protests here and in nearby Pampanga province.

As in the past years, the exercise has also reignited anti- American rhetoric, usually coming from militant organizations.

With police authorities caught unaware, a group of young protestors, mostly from the League of Filipino Students and the National Union of Students of the Philippines and militant groups such as Anakbayan (sons of the nation) and Anakpawis (sons of workers), staged early Monday morning a lightning rally at the U.S. Embassy where they defaced the bronze signage at the embassy gate.

The protesters also burned an American flag, sprayed "U.S. troops out now!" sign across the main gate and scrawled other anti- American slogans on embassy walls before the police arrived.

In Floridablanca, Pampanga province, north of Manila, members of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Nationalist Alliance), or Bayan, also picketed the Basa Air Base of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) as part of its nationwide protest against the joint exercises.

Protesters painted anti-Balikatan slogans, such as "U.S. troops out now," "No to Balikatan," and "Junk VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement)," on concrete fences surrounding the PAF base.

Hundreds of anti-American protesters also tried to march to Clark Freeport in Pampanga, one of Balikatan's sites, but they were blocked by Clark security personnel.

Clark Air Base used to be America's biggest air facility in the Philippines, along with the Subic Naval Base in Olongapo, Zambales. Both were closed down in the late 1990s after the Philippine government refused to renew the basing arrangement with the United States.

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