Manila, Oct. 18 — President Bush told the Congress of this former American colony on Saturday that Iraq, like the Philippines, could be transformed into a vibrant democracy. He also pledged his help in remaking the troubled and sometimes mutinous Philippine military into a force for fighting terrorism.
In an nine-hour visit, Mr. Bush for the first time drew explicit comparisons between the transition he is seeking in Iraq and the rough road to democracy that the Philippines traveled from the time the United States seized it from Spain in 1898 to the present day.
"Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy," Mr. Bush said, taking on the critics of his oft-stated goal to use Iraq as a laboratory for spreading democratic institutions in the Middle East. "The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. Those doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago."
While the administration often speaks of the occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II as models for the effort to rebuild Iraq, Mr. Bush used the visit here to make a similar analogy to the American occupation of the Philippines, which also led to the formation of a democracy. But the comparison has less power to reassure, given that the Philippine government did not gain full autonomy for five decades.
Aides traveling with Mr. Bush made it clear that he was worried about the stability of the Philippines. After meeting with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her cabinet shortly after he landed here, Mr. Bush announced that the two countries had formalized a five-year plan "to modernize and reform" the Philippine military, though his aides said it was unclear how much of the cost the United States would contribute.
"The numbers are still in flux," a senior administration official told reporters, adding that the administration was still looking for roughly $20 million to provide the Philippines with used American military helicopters that Mr. Bush promised a year ago to help root out Abu Sayyaf, the terror and kidnapping group that is strongly suspected of being linked to Al Qaeda.
The announcement was part of a broad plan to provide help to the Philippine military, which Mr. Bush sees as the best hope of preventing the Philippines from becoming a terrorist haven. But it has been marked by a number of setbacks, especially because of a Philippine constitutional prohibition against allowing foreign troops to engage an enemy on Philippine soil. There was no indication that the ban was the subject of talks between the leaders.
Mr. Bush's brief visit here, on the way to the annual Asian economic summit meeting to be held this year in Bangkok, was clearly intended to bolster President Arroyo. Reversing her previous pledge to step down next year, she said this month that she now planned to run for election in May even while still facing down a divided military. Some junior officers tried to oust her from power three months ago.
The White House and Philippine officials made much of the fact that Mr. Bush was the first president to address a joint session of the Philippine Congress since Dwight D. Eisenhower came here in 1960, at the very end of his presidency. But in a taste of the anger that Mr. Bush has generated around the world, several thousand protesters filled the streets near the Philippine Congress and forced an hourlong delay in the arrival of the president's motorcade while the Secret Service assessed whether it was safe to move him through the streets. In addition to the protesters, tens of thousands of others simply clogged the streets of this humid capital, including schoolchildren waving flags and eager to catch a glimpse of Mr. Bush's motorcade.
The extraordinary security around Mr. Bush's visit here underscored Washington's continuing concerns about the stability of the Philippines. Mr. Bush flew in with American F-15's off the wings of Air Force One. The Secret Service would not permit Mr. Bush to stay overnight.
The result was a state visit run at the pace at which Mr. Bush plays high-speed golf, from wreath-laying to meetings to his speech. Mr. Bush, his wife, Laura, and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, attended a state dinner at the Malacanang Palace. Mr. Bush used his toast there to salute the Philippines as "the oldest democracy in Asia," and to recall that 17,000 Americans are buried here, having fallen in bitter combat with the Japanese during World War II.
In a rare departure from his aversion to local garb, Mr. Bush was wearing a cream open-collared barong, the traditional Philippine shirt. It bore a vague resemblance to clothes Mr. Bush prefers at his Texas ranch. After dinner he moved on to Bangkok, where he is scheduled for another more formal state visit on Sunday and a meeting with China's new president, Hu Jintao.
While Mr. Bush made elliptical references to the Spanish-American War, some of his critics have argued that the justification for invading Iraq bore a resemblance to the rationale the United States used to begin that war in 1898, citing evidence. discounted as flimsy, that the battleship Maine had been deliberately blown up in Cuba by Spanish forces. That began the first war in which the United States seized territory beyond its continental shores, and the first in which other nations accused Washington of imperialist and colonial ambitions.
Now, Mr. Bush faces similar accusations from critics questioning whether Saddam Hussein possessed weapons that posed an urgent threat. He gave no ground today.
Mr. Bush said the United States had "liberated the Philippines from colonial rule," using the same verb he often uses to describe American action in Iraq, but he skipped past Washington's own 48-year-long occupation of this archipelago of 7,000 islands. Even the State Department's own briefing papers about the Philippines, distributed to Mr. Bush's traveling retinue, notes that "U.S. administration of the Philippines was always declared to be temporary and aimed to develop institutions that would permit and encourage the eventual establishment of a free and independent government." That is very close to Mr. Bush's description of his plan for Iraq.
He returned to the subject later in his speech, making comparisons between the American experience here in the first part of the 20th century and in Iraq in the 21st, and arguing that the greatest threat to Philippine democracy now was Abu Sayyaf, which operates in the southernmost islands of the Philippines.
"Murder has no home in any religious faith," Mr. Bush said, "and these terrorists must find no home in the Philippines." He vowed to "bring Abu Sayyaf to justice," and "to dismantle the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network" in neighboring Indonesia and nearby areas.
But he also alluded to the troubles with the Philippine military, and its dubious loyalties to the current government. "Members of the Philippine armed forces are commissioned to fight for freedom, not to contend for power," he said to applause.www.nytimes.com/2003/10/19/international/asia/19PREX.html?hpE-mail this article