An official says the Philippines has protested the presence of about 275 Chinese vessels that were sighted from January to March near a Philippine-occupied island in the disputed South China Sea.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Monday the Department of Foreign Affairs lodged the protest after the military monitored the Chinese vessels near Thitu island, which is called Pag-asa by Filipinos, in the Spratly chain of islands. Panelo met with the Chinese ambassador on Monday and raised the country's concern.

A diplomat says the Philippines sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Embassy on Friday to express concern over the "swarming of Chinese boats" near Thitu.

China, the Philippines and four other governments have had territorial spats in the region for decades.