A fleet of 220 Chinese vessels were seen anchored at the Whitsun Reef on March 7 amid rising tensions in the region. A complaint was sent to China on March 22, addressing the “swarming and threatening presence” of the Chinese vessels and demanding that they be removed immediately.
The Philippine foreign ministry said: “The continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels infringe upon Philippine sovereignty.
“Their swarming and threatening presence creates an atmosphere of instability.”
The Chinese embassy in Manila rejected the allegations, claiming the vessels were merely taking shelter from rough seas.
In a statement, they wrote: “There is no Chinese maritime militia as alleged.
“Any speculation as such helps nothing but causes unnecessary irritation.”
Hua Chunying, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, added that the Whitsun Reef was a part of the Spratly Islands over which China has claimed sovereignty.
Mr Hua said: “Recently, due to the sea conditions, some Chinese fishing boats have taken shelter from the wind near the Whitsun Reef.
“I think it is very normal and hope all parties can look at it rationally.”
READ MORE: Philippines accuses Beijing of ‘provocative action’ in South China Sea
Disputes have been going on for years as many nations in the region have laid claim to some of the smaller, resource-rich, island chains.
China has claimed over 90% of the South China Sea, which has led to political tensions with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.