US firm welcomes probe on Spratlys sewage dumping report

Published July 14, 2021, 10:59 AM

by Roy Mabasa

Simularity, the United States-based geospatial intelligence company that disclosed the alleged dumping of raw sewage from hundreds of ships in the Spratlys, has welcomed any investigation into the methods and results that they use in the wake of allegations that their report is “not true” and “fake”.

“We welcome investigation into the methods and results of our research, as it is all reproducible, based on publicly available sources, and the approach and interpretation are validated by readily available scientific papers, many of which we credit as sources in our report,” Simularity said in a statement posted on its website.

Satellite image of the Union Banks on June 17, 2021 (Simularity)

The American tech firm was apparently responding to earlier statements made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. who both refuted the reported dumping of raw sewage in the Spratlys.

Lorenzana in a statement said the report is “not true” while Locsin described the report in a tweet as “fake”.

Questions on the veracity of Simularity’s report were triggered by an image showing an unknown ship in an unidentified location surrounded by what it looks like dumped raw sewage. The tech company said a media organization used the image and “misidentified” the ship as “Chinese”.

“We did not use this image in our research. Ships dumping sewage is a common practice. We used it in our report to provide a context for what we were able to view from space. We never claimed it was a picture of a Chinese ship in the Spratlys,” Simularity explained.

In their website, Simularity credited the image source of the unknown ship from Marine Executive, a news platform for maritime and marine news including shipping news, offshore news, piracy, among others.

In their report entitled “Sewage from Anchored Ships is Damaging Spratly Reefs”, the US-based firm said the imagery and algorithm they used to identify Chlorophyll-a from satellite imagery is “well researched and validated” and can be reproduced with the same free source of public imagery, or any other multispectral imagery of the area.

The C2RCC algorithm process used in the report was provided by the European Space Agency. It said the C2RCC has been validated in scientific literature as a valid way to measure Chlorophyll-a concentration.

One of the satellite photos used in the report showed Union Banks, a group of features in the Spratlys situated within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. In the satellite image, it showed that a total of 236 ships were in Union Bank as of June 17, 2021.

In March this year, the Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of more than 200 Chinese maritime militia and fishing vessels in Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef), which is part of the Union Banks.

Lorenzana, on Tuesday, said the Department of National Defense is “confirming and verifying” the reported waste being dumped in the West Philippine Sea and has directed the Western Command who has jurisdiction over the Spratlys to verify and investigate