Military general denies Chinese-marked floating device found in waters off Pangasinan is an oil exploration tool

Published July 23, 2021, 2:46 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

A military general has belied reports that the floating device bearing Chinese markings found by a local fisherman earlier this month off the waters of Infanta, Pangasinan could be used for oil exploration activities.

Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. (File photo courtesy of PIA / PA 2ID DPAO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Northern Luzon Command (AFP-NOLCOM), said Friday, July 23 that the floating device has been examined by navigation and mapping experts from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

He said the results showed that the object “does not appear to have an instrument used for hydrographic survey or be an aid for navigation.”

He said the device was turned over to NOLCOM by fisherman Randy Megu, crew of fishing boat FFB Legendary Joe. Megu found it floating about 70 nautical miles southwest of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal) off the waters of Barangay Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan on July 1.

The military commander said they initially coordinated with NAMRIA and the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC) for referrals to detemrine what kind of device was discovered by the fisherman.

“It has no GPS (Global Positioning System) like scientific bouys that monitor locations. It does not have any information plate of its owner and the project name which is how research instruments usually are,” Burgos said.

“There is also no provision for anchorage and probably just a part of a series of bouys,” he added.

However, the general said NCWC will be coordinating with the Department of Science and Technology – Advance Science Technological Institute (DOST-ASTI) and other concerned agencies “for their expert opinion and further study.”

The discovery of the floating device ignited suspicions of China’s alleged illegal oil exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and in the country’s other territorial waters.

Initially, maritime experts from the People’s Development Institute (PDI), a partner non-government organization (NGO) of fishermen’s group Bigkis ng Mangingisda, said the equipment was an ocean bottom seismometer or OBS.

An OBS is a measuring device used to record acoustic and seismic events under deep bodies of water such as oceans and lakes, and is “widely used in oil exploration,” according to PDI.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said that the device will be studied by the DOST to determine whether or not it can really be used for oil exploration.