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Philippines: Activists picket Australian embassy, assail signing of military agreemnet

May. 31, 2007

MANILA — The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan ( Bayan ) today picketed the Australian Embassy in Makati. The group was protesting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyos visit to Australia and the impending signing of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which allows the entry of Australian troops to the Philippines.

The protesters carried signs saying No to SOFA and Stop Aid to a Dictator.

The protest action in the Philippines came a few hours before another protest in Melbourne, Australia joined by Filipino immigrants and Australian trade unionists. Several Filipino communities under Migrante Australia and the Philippine-Australia Solidarity Association will be picketing the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne where Arroyo will meet Australian groups.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has sold out the country yet again. The signing of the Status of Forces Agreement which is the equivalent of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, will again trample on our sovereignty and territorial integrity, said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

As if US military intervention is not enough, Arroyo now wants Australian troops inside the Philippines. Hasnt she learned anything from our experience with US troops? Now she has extended an open invitation for Australian troops to commit crimes of rape, intervention and destruction in the Philippines, Reyes added.

Reyes also described as unacceptable the so-called benefits that will arise from the signing of the agreement.

The Arroyo administration is saying that the Philippines should sign the agreement because we will get benefits. By benefits they mean second hand boats and surplus military hardware. Arroyo has put a cheap price tag on our nations sovereignty, Reyes said.

Our senators, especially the newly elected ones from the Opposition, should know better than to ratify this treaty. They should not make the same mistake when the Senate signed the RP-US VFA, he added.

Bayan also warned that any form of foreign military to the Philippines will be used to further human rights abuses believed to be committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The miliant group has called for an end to all forms of military aid to the Arroyo government in light of the unchecked killings of activists.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been blamed for much of the extrajudicial killings in the country. Why does the Australian government insist on providing aid to a killing machine? Why does the Australian government find nothing wrong with providing aid to a dictator? Reyes asked.

Another concern raised by the militant group was the signing of a mining deal which the group says threatens the environment.

We likewise oppose the signing of a multi-billion dollar deal with the BHP Billiton, the worlds largest mining company. The plan will bring our country into the brink of an irreversible environmental disaster. We shall also be surrendering our sovereign right to exploit our natural resources in favor of foreign plunderers, the Bayan leader added.

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