President Benigno Aquino has urged the Philippines to elect a new leader with the zeal to pursue reforms which he says has led to high growth in a country hit by rampant corruption.

In his address to parliament on Monday, his final state of nation address as leader, Aquino said his high-profile anti-corruption campaign had led to a more business-friendly Philippines.

He said his government has creating more jobs, ushering in a 6.2 percent average annual economic growth over the past five years.

"If the transformation is not cut short, this will just be the beginning. What we're saying is, you ain't seen nothing yet," Aquino said.

Aquino, who is constitutionally limited to a single six-year term, described the May 2016 presidential election as a "referendum on our Straight Path".

At least six policemen and protesters were injured when authorities used water cannon to push back the protesters [Reuters]

Among other concerns he raised was the increasingly tense dispute with China over contested South China Sea territories.

He called on Filipinos to unite as their country confronts China, which he did not identify by name.

"Our adversary, is by any measure, way ahead whether in terms of influence, economy or military force," Aquino said in the nationally televised address.

"But on the basis of reason and love for country, we're not lagging behind."

Earlier on Sunday, protesters have clashed with riot policemen amid a downpour as they tried to breach a barricade of barbed wire and vehicles just before Aquino was about to deliver his address.

Political challenges

Police say some of the approximately 4,000 protesters started to push away the vehicles and iron railings used to block them from getting close to the House of Representatives in suburban Quezon city where Aquino was scheduled to deliver his speech.

In a surprising move, Aquino told congress he now backs long-unsuccessful attempts to craft a law that would restrict the number of members of influential families who can run for public office.

Anti-dynasty bills, however, have not had any luck in congress, which is dominated by millionaires who have carried the family names of dominant political clans to public office for generations.

Aquino belongs to an entrenched and wealthy landowning clan which has held power at various levels in the northern province of Tarlac.

His late mother, Corazon Aquino, was catapulted to the presidency after helping lead the 1986 "people power" revolt that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Problems have persisted in a Southeast Asian country where about a fourth of its 100 million people remain mired in poverty.

Communist and Muslim insurgencies have combined with natural disasters in the typhoon- and earthquake-prone archipelago and law-and-order problems to turn governance into a tough and complex dilemma.

Source: Agencies