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MANILA: Demonstrators rallied against the US presence in the Philippines as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Manila on Tuesday to bolster support against Chinese influence in the region.

The Philippines is Washington's main security partner in Asia under a decades-old alliance that allows the US to stay in the Philippines for long periods of time and to build and operate facilities on Philippine military bases.

In the past two years, the partnership has expanded under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who in February last year allowed US troops to increase their footprint in the country.

China claims almost all of the disputed territory and has been increasing its military activity in the region, continuing to encroach on the West Philippine Sea, a part of the Philippine Sea.

„These waterways are important to the Philippines, to its security, to its economy, but they are also important to the interests of the region, the United States and the world,” Blinken said in a joint press conference with Philippine counterpart Enrique. Manalo.

„That is why we stand with the Philippines and stand by our ironclad defense commitments, including under the Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The 1951 treaty obliges the US to defend its ally in case of external attack.

Philippine ships have been regularly attacked by Chinese ships in areas of the South China Sea that are internationally recognized as belonging to the Philippines.

Despite protests from Beijing, US troops have been patrolling the waters alongside Philippine forces since November.

„Article 4 of that agreement extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, aircraft, and that includes its coast guard, which is anywhere in the South China Sea,” Blinken said.

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As he told reporters that the two countries had seen an „extraordinary expansion” in their partnership, protesters in Manila carried banners that read: „US troops withdraw from the Philippines,” „War criminal indiscriminate, not welcome,” „No US intervention. PH and Asia.”

The demonstration was organized by civil society – including BAYAN – the Philippines' largest coalition of grassroots groups – near the presidential palace ahead of Blinken's meeting with Marcos.

BAYAN said in a statement that Marcos was „advancing US geopolitical interests in the region” and „presenting the Philippines as an extension of the US military network.”

„The assertion of the country's sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea against China's encroachment should not involve opportunistic intervention by a former colonialist whose real objective is to preserve and expand imperial hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region,” the group said.

It also drew attention to Gaza, where Israel, Washington's other key ally, has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians in daily airstrikes and ground attacks since October.

BAYAN said it is „the main supporter and enabler of the ongoing genocide in Palestine” and „actively promotes proxy wars and conflicts in various parts of the world”.

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