Seven major US apparel companies are calling on the Philippine government to take steps to protect striking textile workers in the country's Cavite Export Processing Zone.

The action follows reports of alleged violent attacks by Municipal and Export Processing Zone police and assaults on labour rights promoters.

American Eagle Outfitters, Gap Inc, Jones Apparel Group, Liz Claiborne, Phillips-Van Heusen, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Wal-Mart - all of which buy apparel products from the Philippines - are now urging proactive measures "for ensuring the physical safety and for protecting the rights of workers and labour rights promoters."

The joint letter was sent to Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the request of the Toronto-based Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN).

It also asks the government to support investigations into the killing of Bishop Alberto Ramento, chair of the Board of Directors of the Workers' Assistance Centre (WAC), and the shooting of Gerardo Cristobal, former union president and a member of the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW).

It concludes: "It is important that we and other companies doing business in the Philippines remain confident in the government's commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the rule of law."

In a recent incident, striking workers at the Chong Won Fashion factory in the Philippine Cavite Export Processing Zone, who make clothes for Wal-Mart, had to endure violent attacks by EPZ police, dismantling their picket line shelters, mass dismissals, and attempts to ban them from re-entering the Zone.