The Catholic Church is actively opposing an accord that will allow American troops to resume large-scale military exercises in the former US colony.
    Outside the Senate, thousands of activists, nuns and priests yesterday protested the decision.
    The Visiting Forces Agreement, approved by a Senate vote of 18-5, was signed by Philippine and U.S. officials last year and will permit the United States to resume major ship visits and large-scale joint exercises suspended in 1996.
    Military ties with the United States, which ruled the Philippines for nearly half a century, have remained a sensitive issue since the Senate forced the closure of the last U.S. base in 1992.
    A majority of Filipinos support the agreement, according to recent surveys, but the Catholic Church and left-wing groups have strongly opposed it, recalling the country's colonial past.
    AP 1:22pm 28/5/99


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