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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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OFFICIALS CALL
Stop spreading fear
in hoax messages

BY CARLA GOMEZ

Government and Church officials yesterday called on the public to stop causing undue panic and fear by spreading false rumors and text messages that radiation from a nuclear fallout in Japan was hitting the Philippines.

“We ask those who are spreading rumors and false warnings to stop this malicious action that only aggravates the situation and do not help at all,” Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said yesterday.

Instead, he said the Diocese of Bacolod joins the call of Pope Benedict XVI for prayers for the people of Japan “as we condole with the families of the victims of this calamity.”

“In this season of Lent let us offer to God our sacrifices for the Japanese people that they will have the courage and strength to overcome their grief and suffering.

“We hope that with their national resiliency and discipline they will be able to rebuild what had been destroyed and rebound with a renewed sense of brotherhood with the rest of humanity who at this hour of sadness have come together in a common bond with them,” Navarra said.

Government authorities yesterday said they were checking for spikes in radiation levels following two explosions at a nuclear plant in Japan, but that there had been no irregular increases.

The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute said it had been conducting tests of the air since the first explosion at the Fukushima power station on Saturday, a day after a deadly quake and tsunami struck Japan.

"Based on (our) monitoring, there has been no increase in the levels of radioactivity since the time of the Fukushima event," the agency said in an emergency response bulletin.

The institute said any potential radiation contamination would not reach the Philippines because the wind was blowing in a favorable direction.

"The plume from the site of the incident will not pass the Philippine territory," it said.

‘HOAX TEXT’

Meanwhile, the Department of Science and Technology yesterday advised the public not to believe hoax text messages circulating that radiation from a nuclear meltdown in Japan will affect the Philippines, and to stop passing them on to prevent the spread of unfounded fear.

A text message circulating in Negros Occidental said “BBC News: Japan confirms radiation at Fukushima nuclear plant. Asian countries should take necessary precautions. Remain indoors first 24 hours. Close doors and windows. Swab neck skin with betadine where thyroid area is because radiation hits thyroid. First radiation may hit the Philippines starting 4 p.m. today. Please pass for prayer alert.”

Some people called newsrooms to ask if the text was true while others said they were staying home for the day.

“NOT TRUE”

The DOST, on its website http://www.dost.gov.ph, yesterday said Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo advises the public not to believe in rumormongers and gossips regarding the alleged nuclear meltdown at “Fukuyama”, or some other place in Japan, and on radiation threatening to affect other places.

“The rumors alleging that nuclear meltdown occurred in Japan and that radiation has reached the country are not true. The advice that people should stay indoors and to wear raincoats if they go outdoors did not come from DOST or any agency member of the NDCC (National Disaster Coordinating Council,” it said.

NO IMMEDIATE DANGER

The DOST emphasizes that there is no immediate danger of nuclear radiation in the Philippines, it added.

Japan is currently on Alert Level No. 4 which means that there is no immediate off-site threat of nuclear radiation, the DOST said.

“DOST advises the public not to believe these rumors currently spreading through text messages, emails, the Internet, and other means of communication,” it added.

DOST also advises the public not to entertain these rumors and to stop forwarding such messages in order not to sow unfounded fears among the people, it said.

The DOST maintains a 24/7 link-up with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the highest authority on nuclear matters, for advice on the current situation of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the advisory said.

NUMBERS TO CALL

DOST is committed to bringing accurate, reliable, and timely information regarding the Fukushima event and its possible effects to the Philippines via all our media and interpersonal channels, it added.

It said that for more queries, those interested may call DOST-PNRI Director Alumanda dela Rosa at (632) 929- 4719 or 920-8738 or DOST-Science and Technology Information Institute at (632) 837 2071 local 2148 or 2130.

Other text messages circulating yesterday called for continued prayers for the people of Japan and to spare the world of further calamities. A call for prayer every noon was made.

NOONTIME PRAYER

“Prayer is our only protection. Dear Jesus we fervently pray for your grace so that our nation will be spared from calamities, by embracing our country with your protection, with your protective grace, and merciful blessing. Amen. Please pass.”*CPG/AFP

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