The Rocket’s Red Glare

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio has, as the newspapers say, hit the government for supposedly causing panic over the anticipated launch by North Korea of a rocket to send a satellite into orbit this month.

Part of the rocket may fall around 190 kilometers East of Luzon, and the Philippine National Research Institute has suggested that people stay indoors during the launch:

The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) – DOST submits the ‘STAY INDOORS’ policy for the residents of Regions 1, 2, 3 4A, 4B, NCR and 5 during the 12-16 April 2012 period, particularly between 0600H to 1200H,” the PNRI said.

“PNRI will continue to monitor and issue periodic advisories and precautionary measures to the NDRRMC and the general public. In the event of a suspected radiation report, NDRRMC with the recommendation of PNRI will activate the Radiological Plan (RADPLAN),” it added.

That, and proposed no-fly and no-sail zones is a ploy by the government to create panic among the people, Rep. Tinio says. “They are spreading misinformation and sowing fear among the public. It’s outrageous and unacceptable,” he says in reports on Sun.Star and by ABS-CBNNews.com .

The North Koreans are launching a satellite on that rocket, not a nuclear warhead. Yet Undersecretary (Benito) Ramos even refers to it as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM, evoking the doomsday weapon of the Cold War. Such exaggerated language is totally inappropriate coming from a bureaucrat in charge of ensuring public order and safety. Leave the rhetoric to the diplomats and politicians,” Tinio said.

But, you see, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) that Ramos heads does not actually say that on their advisory. There is no mention of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or doomsday or the Cold War on the report, nor is there any “exaggerated language”.

[UPDATE: Rep. Tinio, through his Twitter account, has sent us a link of the minutes of the NDRRMC meeting where  Ramos reportedly referred to the launch of “an alleged non-nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) named “KWANGMYONGSONG-3“. The document has since been deleted from the NDRRMC website, he said.

From the minutes:

USEC Ramos emphasized, the meeting is not intended to cause alarm but rather educate, prepare and allay all fears that may arise from misinformation or disinformation. This is to avert panic as seen in the Fukushima Nuclear incident where betadine solutions/ products were sold-out locally and schools/ universities suspending classes.

To be fair to Rep. Tinio, the minutes have Ramos giving “a brief lecture on the types of (weapon) trajectories stressing how serious things will be if the rocket veers off course or maliciously intended to hit the Philippines.”]

In its advisory, NDRRMC said  the Unha rocket that will carry the satellite is “essentially the same as the Taepodong missile, which is being developed as a delivery system for Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

Which, you know, is a reason for worry.

But hang on, the same NDRRMC update says reassuringly that as far as anyone knows, “the missile does not carry a nuclear warhead.”

“[PNRI director Alumanda Dela Rosa] allayed fears about the possibility of it being a weapon of mass destruction. Accordingly, there is no reported radioactive material that will be carried on board.”

The “Stay Indoors” policy isn’t even a policy so much as a suggestion. The Army isn’t being called out and put on red alert, Martial Law has not been declared, and the government has not said much about the North Korean satellite launch at all since the long weekend.

But clearly, Rep. Tinio, says, this is fear-mongering and a blatant pandering to US imperialism as well as a negation of North Korea’s sovereignty

Tinio raised the possibility that the report was part of a calculated effort on the part of the Aquino administration to get the public’s support on increased presence of US troops in the country.

“After all, President Aquino has been the most vocal in echoing US foreign policy on North Korea in this part of the world,” he said.

This is probably true, since all the other countries who may have rocket debris land within 190 kilometers of their mainland have been so far very quiet about the North Korea Satellite Launch Question. Who’s launching into rhetoric now, Rep. Tinio?

The legislator challenged Malacañang to review the NDRRMC’s report and take responsibility for providing the public with an objective assessment of the situation and coming up with sensible recommendations.

Sensible, like taking North Korea’s word over that of your own country’s government.