At least five Philippine congressmen along with a group of local and foreign media landed at the Philippine-occupied Pagasa Island at 10:00 a.m Wednesday to assert the country's claim over the island and nearby islets.
Rep. Walden Bello, who along with his entourage boarded two 12-seater privately owned aircraft, said the visit by his group is privately funded and does not have the consent of President Noynoy Aquino.
Earlier, China protested the visit by the Philippine legislators saying the visit "will go against the 2002 regional pact that discourages provocative actions and will serve to "sabotage" bilateral ties"
"China will relay its concern to the Philippine government," Chinese Embassy spokesman Ethan Sun said.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the trip of the five congressmen is not authorized by House of Representatives. He said they are going there in their own private capacity.
Upon arrival at the Philippine occupied island, Rep. Bello led a flag ceremony by raising a new Philippine flag to replace the old worn-out flag in the island.
“This is a historic moment for the congressional delegation. This is Philippine territory," Bello said.
“We come in peace, we support a diplomatic solution. But let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind, in any foreign powers’ mind that if they dare to eject us from Pagasa, Filipinos will not take that sitting down. Filipinos are born to resist aggression. Filipinos are willing to die for their soil,” he added.
China, Vietnam and the Philippines are currently embroiled in a diplomatic confrontation on territorial claims in the disputed islands.
The Philippines is bringing its claim on its occupied territories and surrounding areas to the United Nations for resolution but China protested saying the issue must be settled through bilateral talks.
Bello brushed aside the criticism by China on their visit to the island and told the people gathered during the ceremony that they may not be familiar with democracy.
“Maybe they are not used to democratic processes,” he told around 80 people gathered for the flag-raising ceremony on the island, including soldiers, police, coast guard personnel, and government employees.