The Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines said Wednesday it would not stamp Chinese passports with a map claiming most of the South China Sea, a move condemned by the Philippines which also claims territories in the waters.

“Through this action, the Philippines reinforces its protest against China’s excessive claim over almost the entire South China Sea,” the department said in a statement.

Immigration personnel would stamp “a separate visa application form” instead of the Chinese passport which could be “misconstrued” as legitimizing China’s claim over vast parts of the South China Sea.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sent a formal protest letter to Beijing last week, describing the passport maps as “an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law”.

The move has also angered Vietnam, Taiwan and India. Vietnam has also refused to stamp the passports while India is stamping its own map on visas given to Chinese visitors, AFP reports.

Asian nations have expressed their objections to China’s growing assertiveness in claiming territories as Beijing makes a show of flexing its military muscle. Defence Minister Liang Guanglie said the world “has nothing to worry about” with China’s military buildup.

The Philippines welcomed a recent US State Department statement that it plans to raise concerns over the new Chinese passports with China, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman said Wednesday.