Filipino protesters demonstrated in front of the Chinese consulate demanding that China stop its claims and get out of disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Hundreds of protesters marched down on Wednesday a busy avenue in Manila's financial district, with placards that read "China, stop bullying" and chanting "Get out, get out”. One protester burnt a Chinese flag.
The protest kicked off mass demonstrations held by West Philippine Sea coalition, named after the term used by the Philippine government to refer to international waters on its western coast falling within its exclusive economic zone.
The coalition, comprised of rights groups, civil society leaders, student organizations, and religious groups, aims to raise awareness about the territorial claims among Filipinos worldwide.
Protests by Filipino communities in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and across Europe are also set to be held on Wednesday.
One of the protest leaders, former Interior Minister Rafael Alunan, said they want the countrymen to be spurred into action.
"We want to raise awareness amongst Filipinos not only here but worldwide about the problems that we face with China, and for them to rise up and be counted, and tell China to back off, choose the path of peace" Alunan said.
The coalition leaders stressed that they were not against the Chinese people, but against what they called Beijing's "lawless policy of intrusion, occupation, theft of natural resources and intimidation."
The Chinese consulate closed down on Wednesday in anticipation of the protest, which ended peacefully.
Friction over the South China Sea, one of the world's most important waterways, has surged as China uses its growing naval might to more forcefully assert its vast claims over the oil and gas rich sea, raising fears of a military clash.
Four of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Vietnam and the Philippines, have overlapping claims with China. Rhetoric has risen in the past month, with Manila condemning Beijing for increasing militarisation by sending ships to protect its fishing fleets, while Chinese state media warned that a ‘counterstrike’ against the Philippines was inevitable if it continued to provoke China.
The Philippines is supporting an ASEAN-led binding agreement that will govern behaviour in disputed waters. Chinese government has agreed to hold consultations in September in Beijing when diplomats from China and 10 Southeast Asian states meet to discuss the implementation of the informal code signed in 2002.