MANILA, Philippines—A key disaster response official stood by his advisory to the public in certain areas in northeastern Luzon to stay indoors from early morning until noon during North Korea’s planned missile launch in case resulting debris fall on land.
Benito Ramos, executive director of the multi-agency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center, said he would rather be criticized for being overcautious than for being too lax.
Contrary to what was earlier posted in the NDRRMC website, Ramos admitted the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute did not issue an advisory to the public to stay indoors when North Korea is expected to launch its long-range missile any day from April 12 to 16.
He said while the PNRI saw no radioactivity threat, he was concerned about possible rocket debris crashing on land.
The former Army commando general was working on the scenario that the missile “overshoots” its original flight path and flies over Philippine land despite the threat from Japan and South Korea to shoot it down when it enters their airspace.
“Even if it deviates by one degree it will reach land in northern Luzon. So stay indoors. That’s all our advisory is,” Ramos said.
“Once this (missile) disintegrates, we do not know how big or small the (pieces of ) debris willl be. They will all be misguided, meaning it’s ‘to whom it may concern,’” he added.
Authorities have already declared a no-fly and no-sail zone in the eastern seaboard of northern Luzon from April 12 to 16 from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.
During those periods, all kinds of aircraft, sea vessels and even fishing boats are prohibited from an area 190 nautical miles northeast of Sta. Ana, Cagayan up to 150 nautical miles direct east of Polilio Island, Quezon.
Ramos said those whom they advised to stay indoors are those living in the municipalities of Bugey, Gonzaga and Sta. Ana in Cagayan; Palanan, Maconacon, Divilacan and Dinapigue in Isabela; Casiguran, Dilasag, Dinalungan, Baler and Dingalan in Aurora; Real, Infanta and General Nakar in Quezon; as well as the provinces of Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte.
“This is just to (impress) on the public awareness so they will not panic. I may be criticized again and they will say, they stayed indoors the entire day yet nothing happened. In that case, thank you,” he said.
While North Korea has said it will launch its long-range missile some time between April 12 to 16, Ramos said he believes this will be done on April 15 to coincide with the birth anniversary of the communist nation’s late founder Kim II-sung.
“First of all, we do not have capability to shoot down a rocket. So if this falls on land, our advice is no evacuation but stay indoors,” Ramos said.
“I hope our people understand us. I am not sowing panic. We just want to put it into public awareness that the (pieces of debris) are not guided,” he said.
In the event rocket does debris does fall on land, Ramos warned the public not to handle the debris but to alert authorities.
The Philippines has joined other nations in calling on North Korea to cancel the planned launch.
North Korea insists the rocket launch is intended to place an observation satellite into orbit but critics believed it was a test for future long-range nuclear missile.