Members of a political party allied to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III marked the country’s Independence Day yesterday by protesting China’s reported land reclamation in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea.
About 200 members and supporters of the Akbayan Party protested peacefully at the Chinese Consulate in Manila on the 116th anniversary of the Philippines’ independence from Spanish colonialism to “assert sovereignty” over the area.
The Spratlys are mostly barren islands, reefs and atolls, but they are believed to be atop oil and natural gas deposits and also straddle one of the world’s busiest sea lanes. The island chain is being fought over by Taiwan, China the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
“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 Philippines’ name for the South China Sea. “We strongly urge the public to wage a new revolution against China’s aggression and expansionism.”
Last month, members of the party and local Vietnamese residents held a joint protest following the deployment of a Chinese oil rig close to another chain of disputed islands.
At a separate Independence Day rally, former Philippine congressman Teddy Casino, 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.