( dpa ) - Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in the Philippine capital on Tuesday, but embattled President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo remained undaunted and left the country for a trip to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
The demonstrators, numbering around 5,000, marched towards the Malacanang presidential palace to demand Arroyo's ouster seven years after she was propelled to the top post by a military-backed mass uprising.
They accused Arroyo of massive corruption, human rights abuses and failure to uplift the lives of the country's impoverished millions.
The bulk of the protesters were leftist farmers who marched to Manila from nearby provinces to mark a January 1987 massacre of 13 farmers during a protest action for genuine land reform at Mendiola Bridge, just a few hundred metres away from Malacanang.
But Arroyo noted that a recent survey showed that self-rated poverty in the Philippines was at its lowest during the past 20 years.
"This is the fruit of the reforms in our economy, steadfastness of the people against politicking and rebellion, and growing confidence of the world in our country," she said in a speech before leaving Manila.
Arroyo vowed to encourage more foreign businessmen to invest in the Philippines during her overseas trip in a bid to boost employment in the country.
A total of 2,000 policemen were deployed around Malacanang to block the protesters from reaching Mendiola Bridge, a landmark for anti-government protests in the Philippines.
Classes in schools in the area were suspended.
While the demonstrators initially tried to breach the barricades set up by anti-riot policemen, no untoward incident erupted. Authorities also later on allowed the protesters to stage a programme a few metres from Mendiola Bridge.