Reported dumping of human waste in West Philippine Sea gets featured by 9GAG

July 19, 2021 - 1:39 PM
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Satellite image from Simularity showing how anchored ships created chlorophyll-a blooms in Union Banks, located entirely within the country's exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. (Simularity/Released)

The Philippines earned buzz on international communities again. This time, it’s about the reported dumping of human waste in the West Philippine Sea.

Hong Kong-based online platform 9GAG, home to memes, stories and edited videos around the world, wrote about the controversial report on its website and titled it “Human Waste Dumped From Chinese Ships In South China Sea Visible From Space.”

The article, which was also shared on social media on July 14, cited the findings of US-based tech firm Simularity in its report titled “Sewage from Anchored Ships is Damaging Spratlys Reefs.”

Citing photos captured via satellite imagery, the report showed that hundreds of anchored ships in the Spratlys Islands in the West Philippine Sea had been dumping raw sewage onto the reefs for the last five years.

“This is why aliens don’t visit us,” 9GAG captioned its social media post with the article retelling the report.

In the comments section, social media users, criticized the reported dumping incident.

“Perhaps they’re trying to mark that area as their territory or build another man-made island,” a Facebook user said. 

The same criticisms were also expressed under the comments section of 9GAG article.

“Mostly greed and no concern about ecology or sustainability…destroy everything in its path. Almost the same everywhere but China is doing it at huge scale, and once an area is dead they move to another one, and so on, and one day it will be your backyard,” an online user said.

“China is just a country pushing through 100 years of technology and humanity development in a really short time and weird way,” another user wrote.

In the Simularity report, it was stated that the amount of human waste created excess nutrients and thus, chlorophyll-a concentration that damaged the coral reef ecosystems within Philippine waters.

Liz Derr, co-founder and chief executive officer of Simularity, admitted that she could not verify immediately if the ships were from China.

However, she pointed out the photos of ships the Philippine Coast Guard took before, citing “they are clearly Chinese.”

RELATED: Simularity stands by its research, findings amid doubts on image used in report

China’s response

The Chinese Embassy in Manila dismissed the findings in the report as “fake news.”

“It all started with a foreign agency issuing a report full of lies. Some media immediately spread fake news based on the fabricated report. Finally, some anti-China forces used fake news to accuse and demonize #China,” it said.

It further accused the report of creating “sinophobia” in the Philippines.

“It’s a typical ‘whole industry chain’ aiming at creating hatred and Sinophobia in the Philippines. Will people with common sense see through the trick?” it said.

The Department of National Defense last week said that it launched a probe into the reported dumping of sewage onto the WPS.

READ: Philippines to probe report of Chinese sewage-dumping at sea

“We have taken note of the news circulating online about the alleged dumping of waste in the South China Sea. Be that as it may, I have directed the Western Command who has jurisdiction over the WPS to verify and investigate,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Lorenzana, however, criticized Simularity’s use of an old photo in its study.

“However, the photo of a ship seen dumping waste accompanying the report was found to have been taken in the Australian Great Barrier Reef in 2014. Therefore, this intent to mislead has cast great doubt on the accurateness of the Simularity report. We also question the conclusion reached by Simularity from just looking at satellite photos,” he said.

Simularity late last week stood by its research, saying, “the imagery and algorithm we used to identify Chlorophyll-a from satellite imagery in our latest report is well researched and validated.”

“The image in question was not used in our research. We never claimed it was from the Spratlys. It was included to provide context for what we are able to see from space, with an image credit: ‘Image source: unknown ship from Marine Executive,’” it said. 

RELATED: Simularity stands by its research, findings amid doubts on image used in report