President Barack Obama's visit to the Philippines and the new military partnership between the two allies triggered a protest by leftists opposed to an increased American military presence in the nation.
About 100 protesters clashed with police in the capital, Manila on Monday afternoon, disrupting traffic near Malacanan Palace. A reporter for VOA said she saw about 800 demonstrators marching down the street carrying an effigy of President Obama mounted in a chariot pulled by Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
The activists say the agreement reverses democratic gains achieved when huge U.S. military bases were shut down in the early 1990s, ending nearly a century of American military presence in the Philippines, a sensitive issue in the former Spanish and then U.S. colony.
One of the protest leaders, Renato Reyes, Secretary General of the New Patriotic Alliance party (Bayan), said the agreement signed by the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines and the Philippines defense secretary undercuts independence.
"This ushers in a new era of increased US presence and permanent basing. it's no secret that Americans have been here based in the Philippines since 2002. So whatever assurances that Philip Goldberg made today amounts to nothing. These are worthless assurances," said Reyes.
Obama tried to allay those concerns, saying the deal is not about U.S. dominance over the Philippines but about cooperating in training, exercises and operations to respond quickly to a range of challenges, including national disasters and counter-terrorism.