MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials have warned of a possible danger to aircraft and ships from debris from a new Chinese missile launch that may fall in northern Philippine waters, authorities said Thursday, adding that no debris has been found so far.
The Philippine Space Agency said China’s Long March 7A rocket was launched on Tuesday night from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island. This prompted the agency to alert Philippine authorities of a potential hazard in two offshore areas where the debris could collapse.
The possible “drop zones” were 71 kilometers (44 miles) from the city of Burgos in Ilocos Norte province and 52 kilometers (32 miles) from the city of Santa Ana in Cagayan province, the space agency said, citing information from an alert to pilots released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
Missile parts that detach before reaching space should by design fall back into the open sea less than an hour after launch, Philippine Space Agency spokeswoman Tricia Zafra said.
“So far, no comments. We continue to seek reports,” Zafra told The Associated Press. “Hopefully there are no injuries or damage associated with this.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines warned in a notice to pilots on Wednesday of the potential danger posed by the debris in the two coastal areas of the northern Philippines.
“While debris from the CZ-7A is unlikely to fall on land features or populated areas in Philippine territory, falling debris still poses a significant threat to ships, aircraft, fishing vessels and other vessels passing through the drop zones “, the Philippine Space Agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
In July, debris from the core of a Chinese-launched Long March 5B missile landed in Philippine waters in an uncontrolled re-entry, the agency said. No damage or injuries were reported.
Fishermen at the time found a torn metal sheet showing part of the Chinese flag and a marking of the Long March 5B missile in the West Philippine Sea about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the town of Mamburao in Occidental Mindoro province, according to the space agency. using the Philippine name for a part of the South China Sea closer to its western coast.
The agency asked the public on Tuesday to immediately notify authorities if debris is suspected floating in the sea and warned people not to retrieve or come into close contact with such materials.
Manila’s space agency says it is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs to push for the Philippines’ ratification of two UN treaties, including one that promotes liability among nations for potential damage or injury resulting from the launch of objects such as satellites into space .
China has faced criticism for allowing rocket stages to fall unchecked to Earth at least twice in the past. NASA accused Beijing last year of “failing to meet responsible standards regarding its space debris” after parts of a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean.
The country’s first space station, Tiangong-1, crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2016 after Beijing confirmed it had lost control. An 18-tonne rocket fell out of control in May 2020.
China also faced criticism after it used a missile to destroy one of its weather satellites in 2007, creating a debris field that other governments said could endanger other satellites.