Ratify outer space treaty, gov’t urged
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—An international maritime law expert urged the government to ratify the outer space treaties it signed 55 years ago as incidents of space debris falling in Philippine territory increased.
Lawyer Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, made the appeal as residents of Occidental Mindoro and Palawan reported the discovery of space debris in their towns.Batongbacal said in an email to the Inquirer that the debris appeared to be part of the Long March 5B rocket that carried the final part of China’s new Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) Space Station.
The rocket was launched from the Wenchang launch site in Hainan on Nov. 4.
He said the Philippines and its surrounding waters are well within the potential debris field of any rocket launched from Wenchang and China’s Civil Aviation Administration earlier issued an advisory to warn about rocket debris falling back to Earth after the launch.
More reason to ratify
The Philippine Space Agency also noted that Chinese authorities identified areas in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and Busuanga, Palawan, as the two drop zones of the rocket debris.
“This is just another reason why the Philippines should immediately ratify the outer space treaties that deal with the liability of launching states and procedure for compensation for damage or injury that may be caused by their space activities,” Batongbacal said.
The Philippine is among 23 signatories that have not ratified the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, officially the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,” that serves as the basis of international space law.
Four other space treaties have been forged since 1967: the Rescue and Return Agreement in 1968, Liability Convention in 1972, Registration Convention in 1975 and Moon Agreement in 1979.
It remained unclear why the Outer Space Treaty has remained unratified.
The latest discoveries of rocket debris were in Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro, where residents found metal objects bearing a Chinese ensign at Barangay Poblacion on Sunday and Tuesday, according to town disaster office chief Joven Gequiñana.
The rocket debris were turned over to the Coast Guard headquarters in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, on Wednesday.More debris were also found in waters off Barangay Cheey in Busuanga, Palawan, on Monday, Busuanga Mayor Elizabeth Cervantes told the Inquirer on Tuesday. The debris were turned over to the Navy. INQ