A Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Pic: AP.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Members of a political party allied with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III have marked the country’s Independence Day by protesting China’s moves to reclaim land in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where the two countries are locked in a territorial dispute.

About 200 members and supporters of the Akbayan Party protested peacefully Thursday at the Chinese Consulate in Manila on the 116th anniversary of Philippine independence from Spanish colonialism to “assert sovereignty” over the disputed area.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, including the potentially resource-rich Spratly Islands chain, where it has overlapping claims with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Disputes among China, Vietnam and the Philippines have intensified this year.