As Filipinos across the country mark their 117th Independence Day on Friday, activists have been gathering outside the Chinese Embassy in Manila to protest what they see as increasing Chinese aggression in disputed seawaters.
GMA News television reported that the demonstrators crowded outside the embassy in Metro Manila until 10.30 a.m. (0330GMT), before moving on to the United States’.
Young and old people from leftist and nationalist groups voiced opposition to what they see as recent Chinese reclamation activities in the disputed South China Sea and alleged attacks on Filipino fishermen.
The demonstrators also called on the US to end what they see as its increasing military deployment in the region, claiming it only works to serve American interests.
“What is happening in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea [the Philippines name for the South China Sea] is a real-life dance of dragons," House Representative Terry Ridon of the Kabataan partylist said in a statement after the protests.
He described the dance as "a show of force between the emerging red dragon that is China and the old stars-and-stripes dragon of the West, the United States.”
He stressed that Filipinos – whose nation is “seen as a minor player in the territorial dispute” – must “show both China and the US that we can unite and fight for our nation’s sovereignty.”
“Strengthening our position on the West Philippine Sea does not necessarily entail allowing more US troops in our territory. Let us not allow one bully to enter our home to drive out another,” he added.
He called Beijing’s alleged encroachment "an act of bullying that should not be tolerated nor ignored."
"Its refusal to resolve the conflict through diplomacy further complicates the situation,” he added.
Meanwhile, in the central province of Iloilo City, President Benigno Aquino III led the Independence Day celebration, from where he called on China to respect international law, a path his administration has taken in dealing with the territorial dispute.
Aquino caused outrage in China in early June, when - during a trip to Japan - he made a veiled comparison between China's activities in the South China Sea and Nazi Germany's expansionism before World War Two.
China's Foreign Ministry expressed shock at the "outrageous and unreasonable" remarks by Aquino, which were similar to ones he made last year.
On Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson urged Japan not to weigh into territorial disputes in the Sea, labelling Japan a "non-party" in the matter.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed "serious concern" over China's construction activities on islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands.
"As a non-party to the South China Sea issue, Japan has been behaving very abnormally recently by deliberately interfering in the issue, stirring up dispute among regional countries and creating tension at sea," Hong Lei said, according to Chinese state media.
Manila and Beijing have been locked in a territorial dispute over potentially mineral and oil rich parts of the South China Sea over the past year.
China uses the so-called “nine-dash line” to assert ownership of almost the entire South China Sea, while the Philippines uses the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as basis for its claim.
The Philippines has already sought international arbitration before a Netherlands-based tribunal to nullify China’s massive claims over the South China Sea.