The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has recovered debris near Subic, Zambales that are believed to be parts of a Long March rocket launched by China in October, about a month after recovering similar scrap –that was forcibly taken by the Chinese Coast Guard – off the coast of Palawan.
The PCG said among the materials recovered on Saturday, Dec. 17, were metal and plastic debris measuring two meters long and four meters wide. They were found floating in waters some 55 nautical miles west of Subic.
The materials were believed to be part of the rocket launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on October 31, carrying a research laboratory module to China’s Tiangong Space Station.
On November 22, the Department of National Defense stood by themilitary’s account that the Chinese Coast Guard “rudely took” floating debris retrieved by the PCG in waters off Pag-Asa Island near Palawan on November 20.
The Chinese foreign ministry said that its coast guard took the object after a “friendly consultation” with the PCG side, but the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the issue. The Senate also expressed its “disgust” over the incident.
This developed as a boat belonging to the Philippine Navy received a radio challenge from the Chinese Coast Guard while on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) over the weekend.
The radio challenge was confirmed by Major Cherryl Tindog, spokesperson of the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to a report on radio dzBB.
Tindog said the Philippine Navy still completed the resupply mission on December 17 for crews of the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.
According to the PCG, the Philippine Space Agency posted a public advisory during the day of the Chinese rocket launch, alerting the public for possible falling debris within two drop zones.
The recovery off Subic was made a day after Filipino boat captain David Gervacio reported the sighting of a white cylindrical shaped object believed to be rocket debris.
Before this, Gervacio and his crew in November also found a similar floating object on November 16 but were unable to retrieve the material due to its size and it being submerged.
“[T]he PCG remains alert and ready to assist in identifying and recovering objects at sea to ensure the safety of vessels and Filipino fisherfolk plying waters within the Philippine maritime jurisdiction,” the Coast Guard said.
Last month, a large piece of metal debris was recovered in the vicinity waters off Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro, not far from where large pieces of metal with Chinese markings were recovered in the waters off Mamburao, also in Occidental Mindoro, in August, after portions of the booster stage from China’s Long March 5B rocket reportedly fell into waters southeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan.