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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government broadcast a television program on Friday aimed at boosting public opposition to China's increasingly assertive moves to press its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.
The broadcast of the first episode of a three-part series, titled "Freedom," on the state-run TV network coincided with the Philippines' independence day.
The 22-minute video, which was also posted on government websites, focuses on the economic impact of China's actions, including its 2012 seizure of a disputed shoal where Chinese coast guard ships have chased away Filipino fishermen.
The broadcast reflects increased enmity among claimants in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety. The U.S. military has increased surveillance flights over the waters to reassure allies territorially at odds with Beijing.
Rising military deployments in the disputed region have heightened fears of possible confrontations and accidental clashes that could escalate into a major conflict.
Also Friday, about 200 left-wing and nationalist protesters staged rallies at the Chinese Consulate and the U.S. Embassy in Manila to condemn Beijing's actions, including the construction of artificial islands in the disputed Spratly Islands, and oppose what they called U.S. intervention in the dispute.
Waving red flags and holding placards that read, "U.S.-China, hands off the Philippines," the protesters called on Filipinos to join efforts to defend the country's sovereignty and territory.
"These two powerful countries are increasingly conniving and challenging each other in their quest for dominance in the Asia-Pacific region," the protesters said in a statement.
The broadcast features interviews with Filipino fishermen who say they lost a key source of income after China began preventing them from sailing to Scarborough Shoal, which effectively came under Chinese control at the end of a tense standoff with Philippine ships in 2012.
A Philippine diplomat, Henry Bensurto, says in the video that China's territorial claims include areas where coastal states like the Philippines have exclusive rights to fish and explore for other resources under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Chinese Embassy officials did not immediately react to the program. Beijing has steadfastly defended its right to pursue island-building and other activities in areas it says have belonged to it since ancient times.
"If we won't get involved and take action, we may not have anything to bequeath to the next generation," popular TV personality Lourd de Veyra says in the program. "The problem is we have a neighbor who sneaks in and out of our territory and takes away all the resources. This belongs to us."
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