MANILA, Philippines (CBS) -- Thousands of protesters in the Philippines staged a rally near the U.S. embassy in Manila on Friday (November 30), denouncing the United States and accusing Philippine President Benigno Aquino of favoring foreign investors at the expense of local workers' rights.
The demonstrators also commemorated the 149th anniversary of the birth of national hero Andres Bonifacio, who symbolizes the struggles of the working class.
They burned an effigy of President Benigno Aquino during the rally against his labour policy in Manila.
The protesters compared themselves with the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States, which demonstrates against income inequality.
The activists said Aquino's government was comprised of business elites, and that the majority of the population remained oppressed and exploited.
They expressed support for anti-government uprisings in the Middle East and demonstrations across Europe that opposed austerity measures, such as cutting pensions and increasing taxes.
"Anywhere in the world where there's oppression, where there's economic hardships and exploitation, you expect people to rise up, and the Filipino people have been doing that way before the Occupy Movement of the United States. So I think it's a good thing that many other peoples around the world are taking up militant forms of struggle, occupying public areas, the people in the Middle East, North Africa, in North America and Europe, and I think it's a sign that the current system is really failing. The current capitalist order has failed the people and the people want a new system that would prioritise people over profit," said Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance).
Protesters burned a mock U.S. flag with the slogan "Number one terrorist."
The U.S. military is shifting its attention back to Asia, after being embroiled in the Afghan war and anti-terrorist activities in South Asia.
Rights activists in the Philippines have long opposed an agreement that allows U.S. troops to hold joint training with the Philippine military.
"Yes, we have always stood against the U.S. presence in the Philippines and the region. We are against the Visiting Forces Agreement, we are against the deployment of U.S. troops and the establishment of more bases, and our call is for the U.S. to get out of the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region," said Liza Masa, spokesperson for women's rights group Gabriela.
The Philippines and other countries in the region have seen a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel since President Barack Obama announced a "pivot" in foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia late last year.