PhilSA warns of possible debris from Chinese satellite launch

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 29) — Unburned rocket debris from China’s satellite launch may fall within the vicinity of West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) reported on Thursday.

In an advisory released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, rocket boosters and payload fairing from Long March 3B is “expected to fall within a drop zone area located within the vicinity of Recto bank – approximately 137 kilometers from Ayungin Shoal and 200 kilometers from Quezon, Palawan.”

READ: Chinese militia vessels recently sighted in West Philippine Sea — DND

The rocket launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, Sichuan Province, China, is scheduled between 12:33 p.m. and 01:10 p.m. on Thursday.

“Falling debris poses danger and potential risk to ships, aircraft, fishing boats, and other vessels that will pass through the drop zone,” PhilSA warned.

It is not projected to fall within land features or inhabited areas within the Philippine territory, but there is also a possibility for the debris to float around the area and wash toward nearby coasts, the space agency added.

“The possibility of an uncontrolled re-entry to the atmosphere of the rocket’s upper stages returning from outer space cannot be ruled out at this time,” PhilSA said.

It advised the public to immediately inform local authorities if suspected debris is seen.

The space agency also cautions the public against retrieving or coming in close contact with the debris that may contain remnants of toxic substances such as rocket fuel.

‘Forceful retrieval’

In November, Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos of the Philippine military's Western Command reported that a Chinese coast guard ship “forcefully retrieved” a floating object being towed by a Philippine vessel in WPS.

In contrast, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said “people from the Philippines side salvaged and towed the floating object first.”

“After both sides had a friendly negotiation at the scene, the Philippines handed over the floating object to us," she added. ”It was not a situation in which we waylaid and grabbed the object.”

Carlos said the object was spotted about 800 yards (730 meters) west of Pag-asa Island.

A video of the tense encounter at sea — where the Chinese coast guard cut the rope being used by the Philippine Navy to tow the debris — was shown in the Senate, prompting the lawmakers to denounce China's violation of Philippine sovereignty.

Following the incident, the Department of Foreign Affairs filed a diplomatic protest with China.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also said he will “work things out” during his visit to Bejing in early January next year.

READ: PH files diplomatic protest vs. China over Pag-asa island incident