MANILA - Filipinos were celebrating a ruling by an international arbitration court on the South China Sea dispute between the Philippines and China hours ahead of its official announcement on Tuesday (July 12).
At a restaurant in Manila, hundreds of people, confident the Permanent Court of Arbitration would rule in Manila's favour, held a “victory party", two hours ahead of the decision, with drums and dancing.
After speeches by activists, they released some 1,000 balloons in the red, blue, white and yellow colours of the Philippine flag.
Many were chanting “Chexit” – short for “China exit” – in a call China for to withdraw from waters the Philippines claims is part of its territories.
China occupies at least seven reefs in the Spratly chain of rocky outcrops in the southern half of the South China Sea.
Two – Mischief and Subi reefs – are inside the Philippines so-called 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Manila has also protested China’s continuing blockade around Scarborough shoal, an atoll north of the Spratlys just 230km west of the Philippines’ coast.
Ms Joy Ban-eg, head of the Kalayaan Atin Ito group, said her group would continue sailing towards contested reefs.
Dozens of volunteer with the Kalayaan Atin Ito – Freedom, This Is Ours – group sailed early this month to a beached World War II transport ship on the Second Thomas shoal, where the Philippines has sentried a platoon of Marines.
The group has also led trips to China-controlled Scarborough Shoal, and Thitu island, the Philippines’ main outpost in the Spratlys.
Hundreds of activists also staged a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Manila late in the morning.
Carrying placards with slogans that read “This Is Ours, China Leave” and “Hands Off Philippines”, the protesters pressed China to observe what they expected would be a ruling scrapping China’s claims to over two-thirds of the South China Sea.
Among the protesters were fishermen from communities that had suffered from China’s blockade around Scarborough.
“The series of escalating incursions and violations committed by the Chinese government shows their desperation as their claims of inherent sovereignty and 9-dash line were baseless," said League of Filipino spokesperson JP Rosos.
"Their aggression shows that they are becoming desperate since their territorial claims cannot be defended by any historical records or reasonable argument.”