BY EMILY VITAL
May 31, 2007 – 6:02pm
Some 60 members of militant groups staged a picket in front of the Australian Embassy in Makati City, May 31, to protest the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the Philippines and Australia.
Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in Australia for a state visit.
Another protest was staged in Melbourne, Australia by Filipino immigrants and Australian trade unionists to call for a stop to extrajudicial killings. Protesters demonstrated in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel where Arroyo met with Australian groups.
“Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has sold out the country yet again,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) secretary-general Renato Reyes, Jr. “The signing of the SOFA which is the equivalent of the RP-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) will again trample on our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
”The Arroyo administration is saying that the Philippines should sign the agreement because we will get benefits,” Reyes added. “By benefits, they mean second hand boats and surplus military hardware. Arroyo has put a cheap price tag on our nation’s sovereignty.”
Reyes challenged the newly-elected senators not to ratify the SOFA.
Bayan also called for an end to all forms of military aid to the Arroyo government in light of the unchecked killings of activists. “Why does the Australian government find nothing wrong with providing aid to a dictator?” Reyes asked.
Meanwhile, Clemente Bautista, Jr., spokesperson of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE) opposed the entry of Australian mining corporations in the country. Bautista said the presence of Australian troops aims to provide protection to Australian mining interests.
The BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company is interested in investing in the Philippines.(Bulatlat.com)