(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines’ coast guard on Sunday said it monitored more than 135 Chinese “maritime militia” vessels “swarming” around the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año ordered the coast guard to conduct a maritime patrol to challenge and document what he called the “illegal presence” of the Chinese vessels in the area, known in the Philippines as the Julian Felipe Reef. 

The vessels didn’t respond to radio contact, the Southeast Asian nation’s coast guard said in its statement.

China has laid sweeping claims over the South China Sea, an assertion that’s been met by growing pushback in the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose administration has publicized Beijing’s tactics in the disputed waters.

Aboard a Philippine Patrol Ship in Waters Claimed by China

The coast guard said it maintains “unwavering commitment” to safeguarding the country’s maritime security and territorial integrity, in line with Marcos’s policy.

The Philippines in 2021 reported over 250 Chinese maritime militia vessels sailing in the vicinity of Whitsun Reef and other contested areas in the South China Sea.

Read more: Why the South China Sea Fuels US-China Tensions

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