MANILA – Groups of protesters marked the country’s Independence Day on Thursday by protesting China's moves to reclaim land in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea, where the two countries are locked in a territorial dispute.
About 200 members and supporters of the Akbayan Party protested peacefully at the Chinese Consulate in Manila on the 116th anniversary of Philippine independence from Spanish colonialism to "assert sovereignty" over the disputed area.
"The increasing aggression of the Chinese government in the West Philippine Sea is a direct affront to the Philippines' independence and sovereignty," Rafaela David, head of Akbayan's youth arm, said in a statement, using the Philippine name for the disputed area.
"We strongly urge the public to wage a new revolution against China's aggression and expansionism," he added.
It was the latest anti-China protest at the Chinese Consulate staged by the group. Last month, members of the party and local Vietnamese residents held a joint protest following the deployment of a Chinese oil rig close to the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Vietnam.
At a separate Independence Day rally, former Congressman Teddy Casiño, a leader of the left-wing New Patriotic Alliance, said the group rejects "incursions of China in our Exclusive Economic Zone," but also opposes a new agreement that will allow US troops to establish facilities inside Philippine military bases.
"All these are threats to our independence and sovereignty and we are here to defend them," he said.
In April, the Philippines protested Chinese land reclamation at the Johnson South Reef.
Last week, President Benigno Aquino III said he was "bothered" by the presence of Chinese vessels capable of reclaiming land in the vicinity of two other Chinese-occupied reefs in the Spratlys called Cuarteron and Gaven, which are also claimed by the Philippines. Philippine military officials later said reclamation was underway at the two reefs.
China has maintained it has sovereignty over the reefs and ignored Manila's protests.
China claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea, including the potentially resource-rich Spratly Islands chain, where it has overlapping claims with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Disputes among China, Vietnam and the Philippines have intensified this year.
The Spratlys are mostly barren islands, reefs and atolls that are believed to be atop oil and natural gas deposits. They also straddle one of the world's busiest sea lanes. (AP)