Don’t believe everything you see, read or hear over social media.

This was the message that the Chinese embassy in Manila tried to convey to the Filipino people last week after photos purportedly showing a Chinese ship dumping human waste on Philippine waters went viral.

The photo was released by a US-based think tank and was immediately dismissed by China as “fake news.”

The satellite image from Simularity showed a ship dumping brown-colored liquid or semi-solid waste or sewage being dumped in the open sea.

A report said the dumping of waste was being done not by one but by hundreds of Chinese ships which were anchored within the Spratly Islands, located within Philippine waters.

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

That report, according to the embassy, had no other purpose but to add fuel to the fire in the hate campaign against China and the Chinese people.

According to the embassy message, “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?”

Simularity said in a media forum last week that hundreds of ships which were lingering in the West Philippine Sea were dumping human waste and sewage, causing untold damage to the environment.

However, Liz Derr, CEO of Simularity, said they could not be sure that the “ships are from China based on satellite imagery and data.”

But she added that the Philippine Coast Guard had taken numerous photos of the ships “and they are clearly Chinese.”

Derr said the human waste could threaten the fish stocks of the area. She said the dumping was so intense that “you can see it from space.”

Simularity released to the public satellite images taken over a five-year period that it said revealed damage caused by untreated human waste from Chinese ships.

Two top Philippine officials also doubted the veracity of the Simularity report but did not immediately dispel them as untrue.

Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana refused to pass judgement on the supposed dumping of waste but the latter said he had directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command to investigate the report.

In a statement, Lorenzana said, “while we are confirming and verifying these wastes being dumped…we consider such irresponsible acts – if true – to be gravely detrimental to the marine ecology in the area.”

The Defense chief added: “Despite conflicting claims and interests by states in the South China Sea, all nations must be responsible stewards of our natural resources and environment.”

Lawmakers also asked the Duterte administration to take whatever action was necessary if it was proven that the dumping did take place in the West Philippine Sea, which China claims is part of the South China Sea.

For one, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest against Chinese ships which continue to intrude in Philippine waters.

Large ocean-going vessels have several methods of disposing human waste. The US, for example, allows cruise ships to dump raw sewage in the ocean once it is more than three miles off US shores.

The other method of disposing human waste is to incinerate it once the ships reach land.

While China claims ownership of the South China Sea, other nations claim parts closest to their territory. Aside from the Philippines, the other claimants are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. But only the Philippines under then President Benigno Aquino III filed a case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration over ownership of the contested waters, which it won.

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