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Philippines torn over US call for B

Subject:  Philippines torn over US call for Burma sanctions: analyst

US-Burma-Philippines : Philippines torn over US call for Burma sanctions: 

MANILA, April 28 (AFP) - The Philippines, which has remained silent over US 
sanctions against Burma, is torn between supporting Washington and maintaining 
links with Rangoon, an analyst here said.

Manila, which itself emerged from dictatorial rule 11 years ago, has toed the 
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) line, which prefers 
"constructive engagement" with Burma's military rulers.

Philippine officials have declined to comment on the sanctions called by 
Washington last week.

The US move comes in an effort to pressure Rangoon's ruling junta to ease up 
on the pro-democracy movement headed by opposition leader and Nobel Peace 
Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Pressure has also mounted on ASEAN to keep 
Burma out of the grouping, which it was expected to join, together with 
Cambodia and Laos, later this year.

John Avila, a political economist with the private think tank Center for 
Research and Communications, said that privately, Filipino officials may 
sympathize with the Burmese opposition because "we also came from an 
authoritarian background."

"But officially they will toe the ASEAN line because that (ASEAN unity) is a 
higher goal and basically ASEAN works on non-interference in each other's 
internal affairs," he told AFP.

Avila was referring to the Philippines' emergence in 1986 from the 20-year 
dictatorship of the late president Ferdinand Marcos. The country spent 14 of 
those years under martial law and saw thousands of Marcos' political opponents 
jailed, Congress padlocked, rule by decree and heavy media restrictions.

Filipino opposition leaders at the time called on the international community, 
led by the United States, to isolate Marcos. He was toppled in a popular 
uprising in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.

Avila said US sanctions were unlikely to "drastically" affect Burma's economic 
development, saying US investments in Rangoon are limited and investors from 
ASEAN and Europe are "already knocking at the door of Burma."

ASEAN groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand 
and Vietnam.

Avila said ASEAN, which includes some of the world's fastest growing 
economies, has "become more assertive" in dealing with the United States and 
other industrialized nations.

"They (ASEAN nations) are more confident about their own development and their 
own inter-regional cooperation that they feel more in command where they 
should go," Avila said.

He said Washington's call to shut out Burma from ASEAN would be difficult 
because ASEAN's goal of including all 10 nations before the end of the decade 
"is a primordial goal, a goal that cannot be compromised."

Washington, however, might resort to strong moves to force other countries to 
support the sanctions such as passing legislation similar to the Helms-Burton 
act against Cuba, Avila said.

The act penalizes companies from within or outside the United States that deal 
with Cuba, with such actions as taking away visa privileges from these firms' 
executives and their dependents.

While Avila said this could be a "far-fetched" move by Washington, it could 
still be implemented if the situation in Burma becomes worse. US domestic 
public opinion would favour such a move, he added.