Protests erupt over US-Philippines joint drills

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Manila, April 4 (IANS) Dozens of people on Monday gathered in front of the American Embassy in Manila to rally against the largest so far bilateral military exercise held between Philippines and the US.

“US out now! Take down US,” shouted some 50 protestors brandishing signs with similar slogans, before setting fire to a mock American flag scrawled with the words “US imperialism”, EFE news reported.

The demonstration involved members of nationalistic Filipino political groups who fear that the 12-day “Balikatan” or shoulder-to-shoulder bilateral drills with the American military will exacerbate rising tensions with China over the South China Sea Islands.

The war games take place annually but this year’s exercises come just months after China began constructing an air strip and other facilities on islands in the disputed South China Sea.

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Within the upcoming weeks, the UN court in the Hague is expected to issue a verdict on the complaints filed against the Chinese manoeuvres, which the East Asian nation has claimed are purely defensive and fall within Chinese territory.

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