The Philippines sent nine ships to fetch fishing boats and other vessels from waters east of Luzon ahead of the possible dates of North Korea’s rocket launch, civil defense chief Benito Ramos said today.

Navy personnel, maritime police, and coast guard members are now warning civilian vessels and may tow them to shore if requested, Ramos said in a press briefing.

The “sweeping operation,” which covers a 590-square mile “exclusion zone,” will be conducted until Wednesday afternoon before the authorities, too, pull out from the area, he said.

North Korea is expected to launch the rocket around 6 a.m. to 12 noon (Manila time) on any day from April 12 to 16.

No-fly, no-sail may be extended

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council earlier announced that authorities will implement a “no-fly,” “no-sail,” and “no fishing” zone in the area at those times, but Ramos said the measures’ duration may be extended.

“Kung mag-launch sila (North Korea) ng alas-11 eh mag-eextend tayo ng time.. the thing is we don’t know exactly when,” Ramos said.

It will take a rocket launched from North Korea about 4 hours to reach Philippine airspace, he explained.

Residents, swimmers warned

Meanwhile, Ramos said residents of coastal towns on the eastern side of Luzon have been told to stay alert for debris that fall from the rocket’s second-stage booster.

Among those warned are residents of Basco and Itbayat in Batanes; Calayan and Babuyan group of islands, Aparri, Ballesteros, Sta. Ana, and Gonzaga in Cagayan; Maconacon, Dinapigue, Divilacan, and Palanan in Isabela; Casiguran, Dingalan, and Baler of Aurora; Polilio Island, Real, Gen. Nakar, and Atimonan in Quezon; the entire provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Catanduanes.

Ramos also advised people swimming in beaches in those areas, including Caramoan in Camarines Sur, to stay alert for falling debris. (John Roson)

– end –