Residents of Bataraza and Rizal towns in Palawan province said they heard an explosion and felt a tremor when an unidentified object fell from the sky on Saturday night.
This came about 10 days after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) informing them about the closure of several area navigation (RNAV) routes over the province in anticipation of possible debris drops from the rocket launch by China.
A Super Radyo report on Sunday said that the falling object, which looked like a meteor to the residents, was seen at around 7 p.m. Saturday.
Eddie Bonsato from Bataraza Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) said he saw the falling object which was shaped like a ball. After 15 minutes, he said they heard an explosion and felt the ground shaking.
Rizal MDRRMO’s Anthony Lorenzo said they were still gathering information about it, as they only received reports about the incident from local officials around 9 p.m. Saturday.
Late last month, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) and the CAAP urged the public to take precautionary measures due the expected falling debris from China’s rocket launch on December 29.
Based on the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to CAAP, the expected fall of unburneddebris was projected to fall within a drop zone area located within the vicinity of Recto bank, approximately 137 kilometers from Ayungin Shoal and 200 kilometers from Quezon, Palawan.
PhilSA said the expected unburned debris include rocket boosters and payload fairing. The debris may also possibly float around the area and wash toward nearby coasts, the agency added.
Manila recently filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing after a Chinese coastguard vessel in November “forcefully” took control of debris from a Chinese rocket retrieved by a Philippine navy vessel off Pag-asa or Thitu Island.
“Due to China’s Long March 3B rocket that was launched yesterday afternoon (Dec. 29, 2022) from the Xichang Sattellite Launch Center in Xichang, Sichuan Provinces, China, CAAP has issued NOTAM B3736/22) for the aerospace flight activity effective 30 December 2022 at 12:00 p.m. until 02 January at 6 p.m,” said CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio last month.
“Though the debris from the rocket launch will unlikely fall on inhabited land, it may still pose danger to aircraft and seacraft,” it stated. Upon confirmation of planned launch dates, PhilSA immediately issued the advisory to all relevant government agencies on the estimated drop zone area and proposed the issuance of appropriate warnings on air and marine access.
The unburned debris is designed to be discarded as the rocket enters outer space. Falling debris still poses a danger and potential risk to ships, aircraft, fishing boats, and other vessels that will pass through the drop zone.
PhilSa stated that the actual drop zone area may change because of various factors such as the Earth’s rotation, weather, and climate conditions. It is also possible for the debris to float around the area and wash toward nearby coasts, it added.
“Furthermore, the possibility of an uncontrolled re-entry to the atmosphere of the rocket’s upper stages returning from outer space cannot be ruled out at this time.”
PhilSA repeated its earlier public advisory to immediately inform local authorities if suspected debris is sighted. It also cautioned the public against retrieving or coming in close contact with these materials that may contain remnants of toxic substances such as rocket fuel.