MANILA, Philippines - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hasn't even arrived but already, about a hundred demonstrators from various militant groups took to the streets of Manila to protest her visit.
Despite the early morning drizzle, the protesters began their rally in Plaza Salamanca. They had planned to march towards the US Embassy, but they were blocked by police forces just past the corner of M.H. del Pilar and Kalaw Avenue.
Clinton is expected to arrive at around 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty. She will also be here to strengthen the alliance between the two countries through partnerships such as the Partnership for Growth initiative, which is a project of the Obama administration.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Clinton's visit aims to perpetuate 60 years of deception and lopsided relations.
Reyes said the Mutual Defense Treaty is being used to justify US intervention in Philippine affairs - such as the justification of US military bases, the Philippine involvement in US conflicts abroad, and the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement.
The police said they are ready for such protests and have strengthened their security in preparation for Clinton's arrival.
Although this morning's rally was relatively peaceful, the police are still appealing to militant groups to maintain peace to ensure that Clinton's overnight visit in Manila will run smoothly.
An Agence France-Presse report said Clinton will announce new support for the Philippines and flood-hit Thailand as she shores up ties with key US allies.
Officials accompanying Clinton, whose plane made a brief refueling stop in the US territory of Guam, said she would hold talks Wednesday with President Benigno Aquino III and tour a warship, at a time of high tension between Manila and Beijing over disputed territories in the South China Sea.
The United States recently provided the Philippines with a destroyer and Clinton will discuss offering a second one, the officials said.
They said Clinton will also look for ways to step up cooperation at sea. Recent US military efforts with its former colony have focused on fighting Islamic guerrillas in the Mindanao region.
"We are now in the process of diversifying and changing the nature of our engagement. We will continue those efforts in the south, but we are focusing more on maritime capabilities," a senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity.
A Defense Department official said that the United States was not seeking to stir up tensions in the South China Sea, where Beijing is locked in myriad disputes with countries including the Philippines and Vietnam.
The Philippines has "what they feel are legitimate claims in the South China Sea and they are being contested by other countries," the defense official said.
"We're very sensitive to making sure that this does not in any way alarm or provoke anybody else," he said.
But relations between the United States and China have been uneasy, with US President Barack Obama pressing President Hu Jintao during a weekend summit on a range of issues from intellectual property rights to the level of the Chinese yuan.
Obama welcomed leaders from 20 other Pacific Rim economies to the weekend summit in his native Hawaii where he built momentum for an emerging free trade agreement that would span the Pacific -- but does not include China.
Clinton and Obama have vowed to put a new focus on the Asia-Pacific, saying that the United States wants to help build the emerging institutions of the fast-growing region that is vital both for the US economy and security. With Agence France-Presse