CHINESE Coast Guard “forcefully retrieved” an unidentified floating object recovered by the Philippine troops off Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan, Palawan, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (Wescom) said on Monday, November 21, 2022.

In a statement, Wescom commander Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos said a team from the Naval Station Emilio Liwanag (NSEL) conducted an ocular inspection on the early morning of Sunday, November 20, after monitoring through a long range camera an unidentified floating object about 800 yards West off Pag-asa Island.

“Upon arrival, the team immediately retrieved the floating object, tied it securely to their boat and started towing it back to NSEL,” he said.

“However, as the NSEL Team was towing the floating object, they noticed that China Coast Guard vessel (CCGV) with Bow Number 5203 was approaching their location and subsequently blocked their pre-plotted course twice. CCGV5203 then deployed its Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB),” he added.

Carlos said the Chinese personnel forcefully retrieved said floating object by cutting the towing line attached to the NSEL rubber boat then towed it back to their vessel.

The Filipino soldiers were unharmed and decided to return to Pagasa Island.

Carlos said they have already reported the incident to the National Task Force (NTF) on the West Philippine Sea for appropriate action.

Wescom spokesperson Major Cherryl Tindog said the unidentified object was similar to the metal debris found in Busuanga, Palawan weeks ago.

Authorities suspected that the debris was from a recent Chinese rocket launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island.

“Maximum tolerance naman tayo sa ganun e, so parang, since it’s an unidentified then not a matter of life and death naman ‘yung object so parang nagdecide na lang ‘yung ating team na bumalik na lang dun sa sa NSEL,” he said.

(We have maximum tolerance for that, so it seems that, since it’s an unidentified, then it’s not a matter of life and death. So the team just decided to go back to NSEL.)

“The actions to be taken si NTF mag-aassess na po si NTF na, how we deal with (the incident),” he added. (SunStar Philippines)