The Philippines protested against Chinese ships moored in the South China Sea Zhongye Island Duterte said he raised the protest at least 84 times

China and the Philippines have renewed their dispute over maritime sovereignty in the South China Sea, with the Philippines protesting China’s continued “illegal presence and actions” near the island of Chinaye in the South China Sea. Tensions between Manila and Beijing have risen after hundreds of Chinese vessels were moored in the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone for months. The Philippine government says it believes the vessels are operated by militias.

According to a Central News Agency report today, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said today that the Philippines protested China’s continued “illegal presence and actions” in the South China Sea near the island of Zhongya. Manila authorities yesterday lodged a diplomatic protest against “the continued deployment, prolonged presence and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels in the vicinity of Nakaye Island. Reuters said the Philippines asked China to evacuate the vessels. However, the Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to media inquiries after hours.

According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, in a statement, “Pag-Asa Island (known in China as Zhongya Island) is an integral part of the Philippines and the Philippines has sovereignty and jurisdiction over it.” Located 451 kilometers from the Philippines’ main island, Zhongya Island is the largest of the eight reefs, shoals and islands occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys.

The report said China has built a small city with runways, hangars and ground-to-air missiles on Zhubi Reef in the Spratly Islands, about 25 kilometers from Zhongya Island. This is at least the 84th time that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lodged a diplomatic protest against China since he took office in 2016.