A large piece of debris believed to be from the Chinese rocket Long March 5B was discovered Monday on the shores of an island in Barangay Cheey, Busuanga municipality, which the Philippine Space Authority (PhilSA) had previously identified as a drop zone.
Busuanga Mayor Elizabeth Cervantes forwarded photos of the presumed space junk taken by Brgy. Cheey indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) Raniel Montilla on the shores of Colocotoc Island on November 7, according to Sangguniang Panlalawigan board member Juan Anton Alvarez.
“So, ibig sabihin may posibilidad na dito nga sa atin nahulog. Kung titingnan ninyo, mukhang flag ng China (So, there’s a chance it landed here. If you look closely, it resembles the Chinese flag.),” he told reporters at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s regular session Tuesday.
The debris has what appears to be a red flag with a yellow star.
Alvarez now wants to invite the Western Command (WESCOM) to a committee meeting to shed light if it is conducting an investigation regarding the matter.
“Ang gusto ko sana iparating sa authorities at mapa-imbestigahan through the Committee on Peace and Order, magsulat tayo sa WESCOM, o kung sino man na pwedeng pumunta para maimbestigahan ito. Or kung may ginagawa nang imbestigasyon ay ma-update tayo kung ano ang resulta. Nakakaalarma ito, lalo na kung doon mismo bumagsak sa kung saan may mga tao,” Alvarez said in his privilege speech during the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Tuesday.
(What we want is for this to be brought to the attention of authorities and investigated through the Committee on Peace and Order; let’s write to WESCOM or whoever can come here to investigate this. If an investigation is already underway, we should be kept informed of the outcome. This is concerning if it landed in an area with residents.)
In response, WESCOM released a statement through public affairs chief Maj. Cherryl Tindog confirming that it has received information about the debris found in Busuanga waters, and that no one was reported hurt from where it was found.
“Western Command confirms that we have have received information about a debris found in the waters of Busuanga. Said debris did not cause any casualty and does not pose any danger. At present, appropriate inter-agency action is ongoing to ensure its proper disposition,” Tindog said in a Viber message.
Long March 5B rocket was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Site on Hainan Island on October 31.
On the same day, PhilSA warned aircraft, ships, and other vessels to take precautions against falling debris from the Chinese rocket Long March 5B if they were in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc and Busuanga town in Palawan.
A notice to airmen (NOTAM) sent by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) stated that Drop Zone 1 is about 72 kilometers away from Bajo de Masinloc, which is in the West Philippine Sea, and Drop Zone 2 is about 39 kilometers away from Busuanga municipality. Both of these locations are in the Philippines.
Cervantes said residents are keeping an eye on the debris, which is still on Colocoton Island.
“Sa ngayon ay naghihintay pa ako ng report mula sa barangay officials kung ito ba ay nai-turn over na sa kanila, at para sa update na rin tungkol sa iba pang details ng debris,” Cervantes said.
(Right now, I am still waiting for reports from barangay officials if it was already turned over to them, and also updates on other details of the debris.)
China also announced in August that rocket debris that had been used in the launch of a portion of its new space station into orbit had fallen back to Earth and landed in the ocean.
China’s manned space agency confirmed its landing at 119 degrees east longitude and 9.1 degrees north latitude, southeast of Puerto Princesa City in the Sulu Sea.