MANILA, Philippines (AP) — More than 100 Filipino activists demanded that China stop its increasingly assertive actions in the disputed South China Sea, and warned during a rally Thursday they could target Chinese economic interests.
Waving red flags and yelling “China out now,” the left-wing protesters rallied in front of the Chinese Consulate in metropolitan Manila against China’s island-building and other actions in disputed waters.
Protest leader Renato Reyes Jr. from the the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan group said that while the Philippines could easily be overwhelmed by China’s powerful military, “there are other means to express protests,” including rallies and a possible boycott of Chinese products.
The protesters condemned China’s seizures of Mischief Reef in the mid-1990s and Scarborough Shoal in 2012. The two Manila-claimed territories lie west of the Philippine archipelago. Filipino fishermen say a Chinese coast guard ship had used water cannon to drive them away earlier this year from Scarborough, a rich fishing area.
“We are serving notice to the Chinese government that Filipinos from different walks of life are united in opposing China’s incursions in Philippine waters,” Reyes said.
China claims a huge chunk of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China has said it has the right to carry out the island constructions in a number of reefs and atolls in what it says are its territorial waters since ancient times. Washington has demanded that Beijing stop the massive construction work, saying that the islands could be used by China’s military against America’s allies and interests.