MANILA, Philippines:The Philippines has formally protested what they describe as China's continuing "illegal presence and activities" in the South China Sea, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Manila has said China's presence near Thitu Island has become an "incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels."
The Philippines demanded that China remove its ships.
Manila has repeatedly protested the presence of hundreds of Chinese fishing boats in the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines has said the Chinese boats are manned by soldiers. The Chinese government, however, says the boats are crewed by fishermen.
"The Pag-asa Islands is an integral part of the Philippines, over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Thitu, known as Pag-asa in the Philippines, is located 280 miles from the Philippines mainland. It is the largest of eight reefs, shoals and islands in the Spratly archipelago.
In extending its presence, China has built runways, hangars and surface-to-air-missiles on Subi Reef, 15 miles from Thitu.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, over 50 protests have been filed against China by the Philippines.
Besides the the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to islands in the area.
In 2020, an international tribunal ruled against China's claim in the South China Sea.