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Aquino in hot water over warship tour

Church group says visit to US aircraft carrier sends wrong signal

D'Jay Lazaro, Manila

May 18, 2011

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An ecumenical Church group today accused President Benigno Aquino of "being insensitive" to the national interest.

The Promotion of Church Peoples Response (PCPR) said Aquino was "displaying personal caprices" by boarding the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson of the United States (US).

The warship docked in Manila Bay over the weekend for a four-day visit after a mission in the Arabian Sea that reportedly included the burial-at-sea of Al Qaeda-leader Osama bin Laden.

Aquino's visit to the ship "shows that his administration’s foreign policy is the same with the previous administration,” PCPR said in a statement.

Nardy Sabino, the group's secretary general, said Aquino's action "brought our nation in a bad light in the midst of the strong call against US war of aggression."

Aquino and some members of his Cabinet toured the US aircraft carrier on Saturday.

The presidential palace earlier said Aquino's tour of the USS Carl Vinson was planned about a month ago and was not intended to convey any special message in relation to the fight against terrorism.

A militant peasant organization, however, said the visit of the nuclear-powered warship should be investigated because the US seemed to have "turned the Philippines a US military rallying point after its interventionist attack in Pakistan."

Danilo Ramos, head of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, said despite a supposed review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US, the latter "continuously displays arrogance and might by stepping on the country’s national sovereignty."

Ramos also said Aquino’s visit to the USS Carl Vinson on Saturday "smacks of puppetry and made a mockery of the country’s sovereignty."

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