Activists protest against South China Sea dispute on Independence Day

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Filipino protesters march towards the Chinese consulate during an anti-China protest rally on Independence Day on June 12, 2015 in Makati City.

(Reuters) — Filipino left wing activists marked Philippine Independence Day on Friday (June 12) with protests against China and the United States for heightening tensions in the South China Sea.

About 500 protesters marched to the Chinese consulate office in Manila, carrying banners and placards that condemned Beijing's activities in the disputed waters.

"We do not want them claiming our seas, claiming our islands, we want China to keep its hands off the Philippines. We do not want them violating our territorial integrity and violating international law. This is the biggest protest so-far in front of the Chinese Consulate and we are sending clear a message to them: 'Hands off the Philippines'," said Renato Reyes, Secretary General of the left wing group New Patriotic Alliance.

Activists also brought their protest near the U.S. embassy with calls for Washington to back off from the dispute.

Filipino congressman, Neri Colmenares, who heads the left leaning group Bayan Muna (Nation First), said the issue in the South China Sea should be dealt under international law.

"The moment we allow one country to control a sea, an entire sea, that will be detrimental to the interest of all countries around the world. So in the same manner that we assert our independence, and we should stand by our territory against China or U.S., or any other country, we should ask the help of the international community to protest the intrusion of China into the West Philippine Sea," he said.

China has overlapping claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last month that China was threatening security in the region with its maritime construction work, but acknowledged other claimant countries to the disputed sea were also at fault.

The Philippines is celebrating its National Day on June 12 to commemorate its declaration of independence from nearly 400 years of Spanish colonial rule in 1898.

It will also broadcast a three-part documentary to defend its position on the disputed South China Sea on Friday, countering a Chinese television series that laid out Beijing's so-called nine-dash line claims.