Philippine Anti-Base Rally Foiled by Backers, Troops
Opponents of U.S. military bases called off a rally planned Friday at the Subic Bay Naval Base after troops stopped them at checkpoints and residents marched in counterprotest.
Shops closed and public transport came to a halt in Olongapo, the city where the U.S.-run base in located. Mayor Richard Gordon spoke of “a people’s strike in reverse.”
“They will be stretching their luck too far if they insist on coming after 5,” he said of the protesters. “I’m sorry for them, but I’ll have to send them back.”
The opponents of the bases turned back to Manila after approaching within 10 miles of the city because their rally permit expired at 5 p.m.
‘God Bless America’
At least 10,000 residents spilled onto the streets for boisterous marches as riot police stood nearby. One group of several hundred marched down a street with a band playing “God Bless America.”
Many people in this city of 150,000 depend on the base for their living.
The group of more than 2,000 activists who oppose any U.S. nuclear weapons on Philippine territory planned to hold a rally at the gates of the base in Olongapo.
However, soldiers manning at least five checkpoints delayed the group, prompting one protester, Sen. Josephine Valentinne of Australia, to say that the Philippines “is a country being run by the military.”
“We’ve come here with a peaceful mission,” she said. “We have not come to upset anyone or to disturb the peace.”
Search for Infiltrators
The soldiers said they were looking for weapons and infiltrators from Communist rebel or other groups.
The rally at Olongapo would have been the second such demonstration by the group in two days. On Thursday, after arriving in a motorcade from Manila, the group marched toward the gates of U.S.-run Clark Air Base about 30 miles from Olongapo. However, it was blocked about 300 yards away by riot troops and thousands of local residents supporting the base.
The motorcade was organized by several groups opposed to the bases.
The United States maintains six military installations in the Philippines. Washington considers them vital to Western defense interests in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and is seeking to extend the lease on them after it expires in 1991.