MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials said on Wednesday suspected debris from a recent Chinese missile launch was found at sea off two provinces, and they are urging Manila to ratify two UN treaties that allow people to seek compensation for Damage or injury to require space launches.
The Philippine Space Agency said the metal debris found separately off Busuanga Island in western Palawan and in the city of Calintaan in Occidental Mindoro province this week was most likely parts of China’s Long March 5B rocket, launched last week by the Wenchang Space Launch Center was blown up on Hainan Island.
The rocket carried a module containing laboratory materials for a Chinese-built space research station.
The rocket parts were found near sea waters where the Philippine Space Agency had previously warned the public the debris was likely to fall. The agency said its experts examined images of the suspected debris, including one that appears to show part of the Chinese flag.
The rocket’s booster was supposed to crash about 72 kilometers (45 miles) offshore from the Scarborough Shoal, a disputed fishing ground off the northwestern Philippines, but there have been no reports of debris found in the area, the space agency said.
It advised the public to notify authorities immediately of any sighting of the suspected rocket part and warned people not to recover it or come into close contact with it.
Debris from past Chinese rocket launches has crashed in the country’s waters in the past.
The country’s space agency said it is making urgent efforts to expedite the Philippine ratification of the UN Registration and Liability Conventions, which provide the legal basis for people to claim compensation for damage or injury “caused by another state’s space object.” “.
The space agency said treaty ratifications were a top priority, adding that it “would like to reiterate its ongoing efforts to encourage and promote accountability of nations for objects launched into space.”
Rocket fragments that become detached before reaching space should, by design, fall back shortly after a sea launch. While such debris is unlikely to fall on land or populated areas in the Philippines, it still poses a significant threat to ships, airplanes, fishing boats and other vessels that will pass through the drop zones, the agency said.
China has been criticized for previously uncontrollably dropping rocket stages to earth. NASA last year accused Beijing of “failing to meet responsible standards regarding its space debris” after parts of a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean.