MANILA - Filipino activists staged various protests in Manila on Sunday, a day ahead of a scheduled state visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The visit will be the final leg of Obama's four-nation tour of U.S. allies in Asia.
The U.S. and Philippine governments are set to sign a recently drafted military agreement that would boost the presence and movement of American troops in the island nation.
Protesters have been voicing out strong opposition to the U.S. defense pact, saying that the move to increase foreign access to military facilities will further threaten Philippine sovereignty and do little to counter a rising China.
Activists from Migrante trooped to a monument for in downtown Manila and burned a mock U.S. flag emblazoned with skulls instead of skulls to show their dissatisfaction with the agreement.
"Their real intention is strengthening their presence by having their troops, warships and planes freely stationed in our territory, and meddling with our internal affairs and security," said Migrante International Spokesperson Garry Martinez.
Members of Akbayan Youth sat down inside a coffee shop wearing President Xi Jinping and Obama masks while sipping coffee with each other as a creative symbolization of the two superpower's struggle for power in the Asia-Pacific region.
"We think the Philippines is being caught between the two superpowers, and the dynamics of these two superpowers," said Akbayan Youth spokesperson Rafaela David.
Obama's four-nation visit, which also includes stops in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, aims to convince allies that the U.S. pivot of military and diplomatic assets to Asia is real.
Manila's acceptance of a beefed-up U.S. military presence, a politically sensitive issue in the independent-minded archipelago nation, would reveal the scale of Philippine anxiety over China, amid disputes in the South China Sea.
While sticking to a U.S. refusal to take sides in the maritime disputes, Obama will seek to reassure South Korea, Japan and the Philippines that Washington is "fully committed to our defense treaties" with them, a U.S. official said.
The administration has promised that the United States will reposition naval forces so that 60 percent of its warships are based in Asia-Pacific by the end of the decade, up from about 50 percent now. But as the U.S. military budget contracts, that likely would represent part of a shrinking U.S. defense pie.