Pag-asa residents hear 'thunder-like' sounds after rocket debris spotted

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2022 11:04 AM | Updated as of Nov 22 2022 03:41 PM

The Philippines on Nov. 21, 2022 accused the Chinese coastguard of 'forcefully' seizing the previous days parts of a rocket fairing that landed in its waters, but Beijing insisted the handover took place after 'friendly consultation'. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard
The Philippines on Nov. 21, 2022 accused the Chinese coastguard of 'forcefully' seizing the previous day parts of a rocket fairing that landed in its waters, but Beijing insisted the handover took place after 'friendly consultation'. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard

Residents of Pag-asa island heard "thunder-like sounds" for at least 4 hours after authorities spotted suspected rocket debris floating near the island, a municipal officer said Tuesday. 

Ariel Carlos, Kalayaan municipal information officer, said several residents confirmed hearing the thunder-like sounds after elements of the Philippine Navy spotted an unidentified floating object less than a kilometer away from shore. 

The Western Command earlier said the unidentified floating object was spotted drifting about 800 yards west off Pag-asa Island at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, November 20, 2022. 

Carlos said the booming sounds started at 11 a.m. and lasted until 3 p.m. 

"Until this moment we are trying to communicate with WesCom kung ano pala yung naririnig na yun. Wala tayong ma confirm na balita sa pagsabog na yun...Maging mapagmatyag lamang at handa sa possibilities," he said. 

A senior Filipino navy official earlier said a Navy team riding a rubber boat attempted to tow the suspected rocket debris to shore. However, a Chinese coastguard vessel "blocked" the boat and cut the towing line before retrieving the rocket part. 

The object resembled debris from Chinese rocket fairings recovered this month from the island of Busuanga, north of Palawan, military spokeswoman Major Cherryl Tindog told reporters.

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines later confirmed that the object was a part of recently launched rocket by China. The embassy, however, denied using force to retrieve the part. 

"Before the China Coast Guard found the said floating object some Philippine Navy personnel already retrieved and towed it," the embassy said, adding that it was able to retrieve the rocket part after a "friendly consultation" with the Philippine side.

"The Chinese side expressed gratitude to the Philippine side. There was no so-called blocking of the course of a Philippine Navy boat and forcefully retrieving the object at the scene," it added.

The incident occurred as US Vice-President Kamala Harris began a three-day visit to the Philippines aimed at boosting ties and countering China's growing clout in the region. 

Harris is set to visit Palawan, making her the highest-ranking US official ever to visit the western island, the closest Philippine landmass to the Spratly archipelago in the hotly contested South China Sea.

Her trip to Palawan comes a day after she held talks with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in Manila.

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