The Philippines has lodged a complaint against China for preventing two of its civilian vessels from reaching sailors on the Second Thomas Shoal, which is known as Ayungin in Manila and Ren’ai Reef in Beijing.

The Philippines and China both claim the shoal to be part of their continental shelf.

According to Philippine officials, the vessels were deployed to deliver supplies to a military ship grounded in the South China Sea since 1999.

"The freedom of navigation in the area must be maintained."

The Philippines foreign ministry said the Ayungin Shoal is part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, therefore the Philippines is entitled to exercise sovereignty rights and jurisdiction in the area, without the permission of other states.

According to the Chinese foreign ministry, the Philippine ships were loaded with construction supplies indicating that the country was attempting to start construction on the Ren’ai Reef of China’s Nansha Islands.

Rejecting the protests by Philippines, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that the Philippines protest was not factual and exposed the country’s intention to illegally occupy the reef and to spark conflict in the South China Sea.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said pending a resolution of competing claims in the South China Sea, there should be no interference with the efforts of claimants to maintain the status quo and the freedom of navigation in the area must be maintained.