Residents of Pag-asa Island, the largest Philippine-held island in the West Philippine Sea, heard series of explosions Sunday morning, hours before the visit of United States Vice President Kamala Harris to Manila.
Sources told republicasia that the series of explosions happened around 10am-11am Sunday.
Pag-asa residents do not know where the blasts came from but they felt like the “earth was shaking” every time there was an explosion.
The officer in charge of the police station of Kalayaan municipality which has jurisdiction over Pag-asa Island submitted a report to the PNP headquarters, quoting information coming from the Naval Station Emilio Liwanag (NSEL) stationed in the island.
P/Lt. Alfredo Baclagon said the NSEL “believe” that “the repetitive sounds” come from artillery guns/weapons in Subi Reef.
Subi Reef or Zamora Reef, is occupied and controlled by China. It is the nearest rock formation to Pag-asa Island, at a distance of 26 kilometers only.
Lt. Baclagon said it all started when personnel of the NSEL in Pag-asa Island noticed an “unidentified floating object” around 800 yards west of the island. Later, they found out that the object is a rocket debris.
“At about 7am, NSEL operation team departed Pag-asa Island and immediately conducted ocular inspections at the waters of Pag-asa to verify the said floating object. Due to the heavy current and waves, said floating object was drifted away to sandbar/Cay 1,” Baclagon reported.
The naval team went to Cay 1 and “secured the said object.” They tied the rocket debris and towed it back to the NSEL station.
“At about 7:45 am while towing, the Chinese Coast Guard with BN 5203 continued to monitor and eventually, blocked the team twice as they are traversing back to shoreline,” Baclagon said.
The Chinese Coast Guard apparently wanted to take the rocket debris from the Philippine Navy.
The Philippine Navy launched its rigid inflatable hull. But the Chinese Coast Guard, on board their own rigid inflatable hull, “immediately cut the knot and subsequently went back to their mother ship (CCG520), with the rocket debris in tow.
The Philippine Navy was not able to retrieve the rocket debris and decided to just return to the NSE station in Pag-asa Island around 930am.
Two hours after, “some repetitive sounds” were heard, Baclagon said. But civilian residents swore they heard explosions and bombardment that lasted until 3pm.
Incidentally, US Vice President Harris arrived in Manila before 7pm. She is expected to visit Palawan, the closest province near the West Philippine Sea.
Republicasia asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo about the incident. Manalo said he has not received any report.