This photo has circulated in reports about dredging off the coast of Australia, not the Philippines

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A photo has been shared in multiple Twitter and Facebook posts that claim it shows a Chinese shipping vessel dumping human waste in Philippine waters. The claim is false: the photo has in fact circulated in reports about dredging off the coast of Australia.

"Chinese vessels dumping human waste part of west philippine sea," reads the caption to this photo shared on Twitter on July 12, 2021.

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on July 17, 2021

"West Philippine Sea" is the term used in the Philippines for the maritime area in the western part of the Philippine archipelago.

The misleading post circulated online after Philippine news organisation GMA News erroneously published a report showing the same photo and claim.

The organisation has since apologised for the oversight. 

In a tweet on July 12, it said: "We took down the original tweet containing an inaccurate image. We want to thank our followers for tweeting us this feedback. We apologize for the oversight."

The same photo was also shared hundreds of times alongside a similar claim here, here and here on Facebook.

The claim is false.

A combination of reverse image and keyword searches on Google found the photo was originally published in this press release on October 3, 2014.

It was circulated by the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC), an environmental group based in Australia.

In the press release, it states that the photo shows: "Maintenance dredging in Cairns show the impact of dredging and dumping in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area".

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system.

It is located in northeastern Australia, more than 4,800 kilometers away from the West Philippine Sea as shown here on Google Maps. 

Screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading post (L) and the CAFNEC photo (R)

According to the photo’s caption, it was taken by photographer Xanthe Rivett for CAFNEC and World Wildlife Fund Australia.

The WWF also posted the image on its official Instagram account on the same day.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by WWF-Australia (@wwf_australia)

In response to the misleading posts, a World Wildlife Fund Australia representative told AFP on July 16: "I can confirm the photos were taken in the Cairns Port in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area on 19 September 2014.

"They show a ship dumping dredged material."

Philippine fact-checking organisation Vera Files also debunked this misleading claim here