The Western Command (WESCOM) said that it will investigate the alleged explosion heard by residents in Bataraza and Rizal, as well as the tremor that followed a bright red flash of light that sped across the sky and reportedly fell Saturday night.
WESCOM commander Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos told Palawan News in a call that he will have troops from the 18th Special Forces Company (SFC) and the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 verify what was described as an unusually loud explosion that is two-to-three times stronger than a normal lightning strike.
“We will wait for their report,” he said.
Residents of Bataraza reportedly heard an explosion and felt slight shaking between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
In Brgy. Tarusan in the town, a resident said he heard the explosion once, but it was loud.
“May narinig kaming hindi karaniwang pagsabog dito sa bayan ng Bataraza ngayong gabi lang. Once lang, pero ang lakas, narinig po siya sa Rio Tuba hanggang sa poblacion ng Bataraza, at sa Sicud sa Rizal narinig nila,” the source said.
“Merong konting vibration naramdaman after nang putok na yon,” he added.
He suspects it was rocket debris that was expected to fall after China launched into space its Long March 3B before the New Year.
Some residents also claimed they only heard the explosion, but didn’t feel the ground shaking.
“Narinig lang pero di naman yumanig ang lupa. Di naman alarming yung lakas kala ko nga bungbung lang sa kapitbahay,” a netizen commented under a post by Palawan News.
“Rockets are concentrated energies emitting shockwaves and soundwaves in a kilometer sphere of effect… I onced witnessed it, I was inside our company cars, and each time a rocket is launched, vibrations inside the car is felt, gumagalaw ang bubong [n]ang car namin in every launch,” another said.
In a previous advisory, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) stated that pieces of “unburned debris”, which may include rocket boosters and payload fairing, are anticipated to fall in the vicinity of Recto Bank, which is approximately 137 kilometers from Ayungin Shoal and 200 kilometers from Quezon, Palawan.
China launched its space rocket on December 29, 2022, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, Sichuan Province.
“While not projected to fall on land features or inhabited areas within the Philippine territory, falling debris poses danger and potential risk to ships, aircraft, fishing boats, and other vessels that will pass through the drop zone,” PhilSA said.
Mayor Abraham Ibba, when asked about the incident, said in a phone call that he too witnessed a red light flashing rapidly through the night sky around the same time. However, he did not hear the explosion as he was busy attending an event at the time.
“Pero ako mismo may nakita ako kanina na parang may umilaw sa taas. May nakita ako parang iba, sabi ko parang unidentified flying object (UFO), sa may Tres Marias dito sa may Mantalingahan. Sobrang bilis, maraming nakakita,” Ibba said.
“Hindi ko narinig yong [sabog] kasi nandito ako sa ano—may konting okasyon. Pero sila MDRRMO, doon malapit sa pier, narinig nila. Itong mga kasamahan ko mag more than 10 kami, nakakita sila lahat—narinig nila yong sabog, pero ako di ko narinig yong sabog, ang nakita ko lang yong pulang parang ang bilis parang bala,” he added.
“Umaapoy, ha, umaapoy. Nakita ng dalawang mata ko,” he said.
Ibba stated that the barangay captain of Culandanum also informed him about the explosion heard by locals near Tres Marias, which is located within the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape.
He had already ordered the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) to monitor and check near Tres Marias, the area that borders Bataraza from Rizal.
In Rizal town, MDRRMO chief Anthony Lorenzo said that “concerned barangay officials” have already been instructed to help in verifying the incident.
“Hindi pa natin masabi kung ano yon. Pero nagbe-verify na rin kami. Yong mga kapitan ng barangay nasabihan na tingnan nila at i-verify kung ano yon para malaman natin,” Lorenzo said.
Other reports claimed that the “impact area” of what allegedly fell is Brgy. Panalingaan, which shares common borders with Tarusan, Culandanum, and Bulalacao in Bataraza.
As of press time, there had been no word on whether or not debris had been discovered.