The Philippines said Wednesday it would refuse to stamp Chinese passports containing a map showing most of the China South Sea as belonging to China, as it stepped up protests over the controversial move.
The new passports have provoked angry reactions from around the region, with Vietnam, Taiwan and India all expressing their objections amid an ongoing row over Beijing's territorial claims.
The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that immigration personnel would stamp "a separate visa application form" instead of the Chinese passport.
"Through this action, the Philippines reinforces its protest against China's excessive claim over almost the entire South China Sea," the department said.
Stamping the Chinese passport could be "misconstrued" as legitimising China's claim over vast parts of the South China Sea, which are also claimed in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
President Benigno Aquino's spokesman also said Wednesday the Philippines welcomed a recent US State Department statement that it planned to raise concerns over the new Chinese passports with China.
Last week, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sent Beijing a formal protest letter, calling the passport maps "an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law".
Foreign governments became aware this month that China had begun issuing passports with maps showing a "nine-dash line" that runs almost to the Philippine and Malaysian coasts.
Vietnam has also refused to stamp the passports while India, angered that the map claims Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai China as Chinese territory, is stamping its own map on visas given to Chinese visitors.