Bicol back to normal, alert status lifted; Quezon fishers rue lost earnings

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LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—Disaster authorities here lifted on Friday the alert status from high to normal in the provinces of Camarines Norte and Catanduanes after receiving an order from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to lift the emergency warning, the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol said.

Raffy Alejandro-OCD regional director and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chairman, said the lifting of the alert status was due to the unsuccessful launch of a North Korean rocket on Friday morning.

The two provinces had been on heightened alert since Wednesday due to the threat of missile debris fall from the launch.

Before the NDRRMC order, Alejandro had ordered all disaster councils to enforce the “No Sailing, Fishing and Flying Zone” policies.

He said the lifting of the alert status would allow sea craft and planes in threatened areas in Bicol to pursue their normal navigational routes.

Ro-ro (roll on-roll off) passenger sea vessels and other sea crafts plying the routes Tabaco-Virac began its normal operation after the warning was lifted.

In Camarines Norte, the PDRRMC earlier on Friday placed on red alert status the coastal town of Mercedes, where the “No Sailing and Fishing Zone” was strictly carried out. But only a few hours later the restriction was lifted due to the failed launch.

In Quezon, fishers in the coastal village of Dalahican in Lucena City lamented they lost a day’s earning because of the government’s warning on the rocket launch.

“Although Tayabas Bay is too far from the projected path, I also decided not to fish out of fear for my family. And now that nothing happened, I lost a day’s earning for nothing,” Reynaldo Damaso, a local fisher, told the Inquirer.

A number of fishing boats remained anchored at the Dalahican coastline early morning Friday.

Damaso blamed government officials and the media for his lost earning. He said he earns an average of P250 a day as crew of a commercial fishing boat.

“The government warning and the media reports were exaggerated. Look what happened?” he shook his head but burst out a good laugh.

His fellow boatmen shared Damaso’s view.

But another fisher said the Filipinos should not blame the government.

“The government officials just did what they thought was right. And that was to warn the people. What if the rocket launch was successful and scattered debris caused death and destruction?” Edgardo Alma said.

He said the failed rocket launch was “God’s will.” But it was learned from villagers that only a few fishermen skipped fishing. “There were a lot of them who still went out fishing,” a fish vendor claimed.

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