Falling debris from rocket launches a concern, PCG says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 10) — Falling debris from rocket launches of other countries worry authorities, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said after several metal parts suspected to be from China's rocket launch were found in local waters.

“Of course kasi… paano kung hindi maging accurate 'yung babagsakan nito at may mga tao o may mga lugar na pwedeng maapektuhan at maaksidente… Proper coordination should be made with the other country o kahit na sino pang country na involved sa space exploration na dapat maging maingat kung sakaling mayroong mga babagsak na debris sa dagat, properly inform (those who may be affected), and establish 'yung mga tamang protocols,” PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Thursday.

[Translation: Of course because what if it will not accurately fall and affect people or places. Proper coordination should be made with the other country or any other country involved in space exploration to ensure preparedness if ever there will be debris falling in the water, properly inform those who may be affected, and establish the right protocols.]

In a statement on Wednesday, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) said the debris recovered by fishermen in Mimaropa provinces likely came from a recently launched Chinese rocket. 

The agency noted that there is “high likelihood” that the one detected on Monday in Busuanga, Palawan was part of China’s Long March 5B launched on Oct. 31. Meanwhile, it is also “highly likely” that the pieces of debris found off Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro on Sunday were also part of the said rocket component, it added.

This is the third time that material from a Chinese rocket fell into Philippine waters. The first case was in August

Prior to the latest incident, Balilo said Chinese authorities issued a notice to their Philippine counterparts to be on the lookout for possible falling debris from the launched rocket. Drop off zones were also identified, he noted. 

This allowed the PCG to advise their station commanders to conduct an information operation in affected areas, especially the coastal communities, to warn them and to inform the locals that such materials should be turned over to proper authorities since these might still contain toxic elements.

Balilo said they also continuously monitor since there is no assurance that the debris will accurately fall in the drop off zones since there are factors that may affect its trajectory like weather.

“It’s incumbent also upon the government agency concerned na makipag coordinate ng mabuti doon sa space authority ng China na magkaroon ng mga pagusuap para maiwasan 'yung anumang incident na kung saan mayroong matatamaang iba at maiiba 'yung trajectory,” he added.

[Translation: It’s incumbent also upon the government agency concerned to coordinate with the space authority of China to discuss and prevent any incident that will involve affecting others and the trajectory will change.]

The PCG official said they are coordinating with the PhilSA and will soon turnover the debris to the latter after protocols are finalized.