MANILA – Hundreds of Filipinos marked their country’s 120th Independence Day on Tuesday by staging protests against China and the United States.
In central Manila, more than 50 people gathered near the US Embassy to protest against military exercises conducted by the US forces in the Philippines.
Several people also carried a wide banner that read “We support the peaceful reunification of Korea,” in reference to Tuesday’s bilateral summit between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
Despite the rally gathering outside the US embassy, many of the protesters’ slogans focused on China for its alleged maritime incursions, in the form of building military bases on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea and stopping Filipino fishermen from working in the West Philippine Sea.
The demonstrators at the embassy were outnumbered by the 200 riot police officers deployed nearby, though there were no clashes or arrests.
Meanwhile, the Chinese consulate in the nearby city of Makati witnessed a second day protests against China.
Some demonstrators wore red tricorne hats printed with “China Out” while others slammed alleged Chinese mistreatment of Filipino fishermen.
The protests at the consulate since Monday follow a claim made by Philippine opposition lawmaker Rep. Gary Alejano that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the Philippine military to stop patrolling the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine News Agency reported.
Alejano’s claim was denied on Monday by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said such an order was never given.
Tensions in the West Philippine Sea are part of the larger South China Sea dispute, that involves competing maritime and island claims by Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Independence Day marks the June 12, 1898 enactment of the Philippines Declaration of Independence from Spain, which ruled the archipelago since 1521.