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China-made device from Scarborough shoal has Philippine authorities looking for answers

Philippine authorities are studying the Chinese-made floating device found 70 nautical miles off Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal following its recovery by the military. 

In a statement, the Northern Luzon Command said it had secured the device from the Filipino fishermen who fished it out of Philippine waters.

Nolcom said it had coordinated with the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Agency (NAMRIA) for referrals regarding the recovered floating device.

According to a navigation and mapping expert of the NAMRIA, the device does not appear to have an instrument used for hydrographic survey or be an aid for navigation.

The device has no global positioning system or GPS like scientific buoys that monitors locations.

Unlike the usual research instruments, it also does not have an information plate of its owner and the project name.

“There is also no provision for anchorage and probably just a part of a series of buoys,” Nolcom said.

The non-government organization Peoples Development Institute (PDI) has identified the device as ocean bottom seismometer or OBS.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal said such device could be used for oil exploration.

Nolcom said NCWC would be coordinating with the Department of Science and Technology - Advance Science Technological Institute (DOST - ASTI) and other agencies to study the device.

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque has ruled out the possibility of China deploying oil exploration device in the Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground in West Philippine Sea.

“For now, we're confident na walang exploration na nagaganap diyan sa (We are confident that there is no ongoing oil exploration in) Scarborough,” Roque said.

“If there is such and we can verify it, then we will make the corresponding action,” he added.

NOLCOM commander and Area Task Force – North head Lieutenant General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said, "Our [Maritime Informant Network], who serve as our eyes and ears, contributed significantly in monitoring our territorial waters."

"The Philippine Navy and Airforce do regular maritime and surface patrols in the northern maritime borders to ensure the safety of our fisherfolks and sustained freedom of navigation,” he added. —NB, GMA News