DFA statement on the unrest in Bahrain and the Japan quake/tsunami

Oi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3, Unit 4. Locatio...Image via WikipediaStatement of Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael E. Seguis:
On the unrest in Bahrain and the aftermath of the Japan earthquake/tsunami

[Delivered at a press briefing in MalacaƱang on March 15, 2011]

Members of the media, colleagues in government, good afternoon.

Pursuant to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s instructions to ensure the safety and security of Filipinos in the Middle East, we have been closely monitoring developments in the countries in that region.

In view of increased tensions in Bahrain, the DFA has raised the alert level there from alert level 1 (heightened alertness) to alert level 2 (restriction of movements).

Thus, we are urging the some 31,000 Filipinos in Bahrain to restrict their movements to only those which are absolutely essential and also to voluntarily depart the country.

The situation in Bahrain has also led other countries to adopt similar measures, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

It may be recalled that on February 21, the DFA issued a travel advisory to defer non-urgent and non-essential travel to Bahrain.

There is yet no need to raise the level to alert level 3 (voluntary repatriation), where the DFA will make available facilities for their repatriation.

Since February 17, our Embassy there under the leadership of Ambassador Corazon Yap-Bahjin has met with Filipino community members to brief them of the Embassy’s contingency plans.

The Embassy has also released an advisory to Filipino nationals there, which we reiterate now:

Remain calm;
Actively monitor ongoing developments;
Keep communications lines open with the Embassy and with designated community coordinators;
Inform the Embassy or Filipino community coordinators assigned to their area of their whereabouts.
Refrain from going outdoors, to the extent possible;
Stock at least a two-week supply of food and water as well as medicines, flashlights, candles, mobile phones and radios and keep these available and in good condition at all times;
Make sure that important documents such as passports and driver’s licenses are readily available, and;
Be sensitive to local culture, customs and traditions, and religious beliefs in Bahrain, as well as avoid making comments or actions that may be considered politically sensitive.
We wish to inform the public that the Embassy’s contingency plan is updated and in place, and proactive measures have already been undertaken, including the conduct of meetings with the Filipino community leaders and members to brief them of the contingency plans.

We are hopeful that the political situation will stabilize. Nevertheless, precautionary measures are necessary to assure the safety of our Filipinos in Bahrain.

Meanwhile, we are urging Filipinos who are within the 30-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (see picture) to stay indoors, if they have not evacuated the area already, as urged by Japanese authorities. Those near the Fukushima Daiini nuclear power plant should also observe the 10-kilometer exclusion zone imposed by Japanese authorities.

Filipino nationals who cannot get in touch with the Fukushima Prefectural Government may contact the Embassy so that it can inform Japanese authorities of their location.

In a briefing for the diplomatic corps, Japanese authorities said that people residing outside the exclusion zones can remain and continue with their normal activities. However, those who are concerned about ongoing developments may wish to voluntarily relocate to areas further away.

Japanese authorities said that they have evacuated those within the exclusion zones, and are constantly monitoring radiation levels. The MOFA highlighted that expert-led operations on the ground are systematic and measured, cooling measures are continuing and have a “good safety allowance,” and the amount of radioactivity leak is under control.

The Philippine Government, through the DFA, the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, its Consulate General in Osaka and the Honorary Consulates in Sapporo, Morioka, Nagoya and Naha, have reached out to Filipino community leaders and members, as well as quickly responding to requests for assistance or information.

Thus far, there are still no reports of Filipino injuries or fatalities.

Most of our Filipino nationals are in the Tokyo metropolitan region, and the capital city is about 250 kilometers away from the said nuclear power plants.

Two teams are now in the Sendai area and are assisting our nationals, as well as providing relief goods such as food and water for the Filipino community. They have touched base with the Filipino communities in the area.

We expect that we will get more information in the coming days, as Japanese authorities go to the affected areas, assess the damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami and do search and rescue missions.

Again, we ask our nationals to heed the advisories of the Japanese authorities and our Embassy on evacuation and safety instructions.

Thank you.