Philippines still safe despite nuclear emergency in Japan-A A +A
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
FILIPINOS need not panic over the latest upgrade in the nuclear emergency in Japan as effects of the radioactive materials remain to be insignificant, a government agency said Wednesday.
Philippine Nuclear Research Institute Deputy Director Corazon Bernido said in a press briefing that Japanese authorities are doing their best to contain the possible escape of harmful radioactive substances into the air.
“We think the worst is past,” she said.
On Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ordered the mandatory evacuation of 1,989 Filipinos living within the 50-kilometer radius of the quake-crippled Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plants after Japan raised the emergency level from five to seven.
According to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Level 7 poses widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.
Meanwhile, no less than DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario believes that there will not be any 100 percent evacuation of Filipinos living in the radiation-threatened areas in Japan.
According to del Rosario, the mandatory and voluntary repatriation orders in Japan would most likely be similar to the one that took place in Libya last month.
“We don’t think that all the 2,000 would consent to be repatriated. It could be like the Libya situation where there will be a certain percentage, which would actually choose to stay,” said del Rosario.
He said that they are mostly concerned with Filipinos, who have already started a family in Japan by marrying Japanese nationals, as they may not want to leave their loved ones behind.
Still, the DFA chief said they are pushing through with the repatriation directive of President Benigno Aquino III for people living within the 50- and 100-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The DFA chief, however, had already said that the mandatory repatriation would not really mean that they would be forcing everyone to leave Japan.
“The labeling (of mandatory repatriation) is more just to tell the people on what alert level we have regarding the risks to their lives… We can't compel people to go,” del Rosario said.
The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo reported late Wednesday afternoon that there are already 55 Filipinos, including children, which have expressed interest to be repatriated.
“To date, there are 55 Filipinos, including children, within the 100-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, who have confirmed to the Embassy their interest to be repatriated in view of the possible effects of the long-term accumulation of and exposure to radioactive particles in the northeastern region of Japan,” said the statement released by the DFA.
It added that they are projected to be included in the targeted first departure of Filipinos on Sunday, April 17.
These Filipinos, the embassy added, are set to undergo proper health screening at radiation screening facilities of the Japanese Government.
The Philippine embassy has identified Omiya in Saitama prefecture as the rendezvous area for Filipinos, where their travel documents will be processed prior to their repatriation.
Accommodations in Saitama are likewise arranged for the Filipino nationals awaiting repatriation, said the embassy.
The DFA–Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) has set up hotline numbers and an e-mail address for those who would like to inquire about the conditions of Filipino relatives in Japan. The hotline numbers at the DFA-OUMWA are 834-3245 and 834-3240 while requests for information through e-mail can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
DFA spokesperson Eduardo Malaya on Wednesday also dispelled notions that the government might not be financially equipped to rescue Filipinos in the badly hit northern Japan.
“The cost of the chartered flight is $200,000 or P8.6 million. We in the DFA have funds for it. Occasionally, the Department of Budget and Management will replenish our Assistance to Nationals Unit (ATN),” he said in an interview.
Wire reports said evacuation orders have so far covered about 85,000 people inside the 20-kilometer zone, while another 62,000 within 30 kilometers have been told to stay indoors.
As of February 24, the ATN fund has a balance of P138.74 million but this has gone down following the repatriation of thousands of Filipinos from conflict-torn Libya at the time. (AMN/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)