In this photo taken Feb. 25, 2014 by surveillance planes and released Thursday, May 15, 2014, by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands at South China Sea, Philippines. The Philippines has protested China's reclamation of land in the disputed reef in the South China Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base in the increasingly volatile region, the country's top diplomat and other officials said Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The white arrow was added by the source. (MNS photo)

In this photo taken Feb. 25, 2014 by surveillance planes and released Thursday, May 15, 2014, by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands at South China Sea, Philippines. The Philippines has protested China’s reclamation of land in the disputed reef in the South China Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base in the increasingly volatile region, the country’s top diplomat and other officials said Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The white arrow was added by the source. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already protested China’s reported reclamation project on a disputed reef in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said the DFA sent a note verbale to China on October 10 regarding its reported construction activities, including the building of an airstrip, on Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef.

“We looked at our records and discovered that a note verbale has already been sent,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the DFA’s budget deliberations in the Senate on Tuesday.

“We were protesting the activity,” he said in an ambush interview.

The Philippines includes Kagitingan Reef within its territory as part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands. China, meanwhile, claims almost the entire South China Sea as its own, covering territories claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan.

The Philippines has filed a case against China before a UN arbitration tribunal concerning the territorial row.

In a recent report, the international defense publication Jane’s said satellite images taken in August and November show Chinese forces creating a land mass stretching 3,000 meters on the reef.

It is said to be China’s first military airstrip in the Spratlys aimed at asserting its sovereignty.

China’s Foreign Ministry has defended the project as enabling Chinese citizens working there to “better perform international obligations in terms of search, rescue and other public services,” the Associated Press reports.

“It makes having a code of conduct all the more important,” said DFA spokesperson Charles Jose. “The Philippines is working very closely with ASEA for the early conclusion of a legally binding code of conduct, which will govern the behaviour and actions of all claimant parties in the South China Sea.” (MNS)