The Philippines will again ban flights, marine transport, and fishing in waters east of the country when South Korea launches a rocket on Oct. 26, Office of Civil Defense administrator Benito Ramos said.

The “exclusion zone” covers 600-kilometer by 400-kilometer rectangular area located 540 nautical miles off Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, Ramos told reporters in a briefing.

Government agencies will enforce the ban when South Korea launches the rocket 2:30 p.m. (Philippine time) up to 6 p.m., giving a leeway for the booster and “fairing” to fall into the sea.

The rocket’s “fairing” measures about 5 meters while the booster measures about 25 meters – or about the height of two electric posts.

“It is highly unlikely that they (fairing and booster) will hit the land,” Ramos said, adding that both parts are expected to disintegrate in the atmosphere.

In case the launch does not push through on Oct. 26, the ban will also be enforced on Oct. 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31, the “reserve dates” provided by South Korea, Ramos said.

“We will be closely coordinating with South Korea’s defense attache. We expect them to give us a blow-by-blow account. They have been very transparent,” he said.

Last April, North Korea also launched a rocket said to be carrying a satellite, prompting the Philippines to planes from flying and ships from sailing in waters east of the country.

No nuclear content?

Teofilo Leonin, chief of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute’s regulations division, said the government was still “unsure” if South Korea’s rocket will be carrying nuclear or radioactive materials.

“The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has not yet issued an advisory [if the rocket has nuclear materials], unlike when North Korea launched its rocket last April,” Leonin said.

“There might be more hazards from the fire or explosion [if the rocket parts hit the land],” he told reporters.

A representative from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said northeasterly winds or “amihan” prevailing later this month will not be able to “capture” the falling rocket parts or take these closer to land.

Flights to be diverted

Michael Mabanag, representing the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said the agency will inform airlines seven days ahead of South Korea’s launch.

The launch will affect “five major air routes” used by carriers flying from Japan to different countries such as Singapore, as well as planes departing from Manila to Japan and South Korea, he said.

“We will be offering contingency routes,” he said.

A representative from the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) said the agency will issue an advisory to all shipping companies in Regions 1, 4, 5, and 10.

At the briefing, Ramos instructed representatives of the Armed Forces, National Police, Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Department of Health to put their personnel near the affected areas on alert.

He also advised representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Interior and Local Government to prepare food for fishermen who might be affected by the ban.

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KLSV-1) rocket will be launched at the Naro Center in Gehung, Jeollanam, to put a satellite into polar orbit. It will be South Korea’s third attempt to launch the space probe. (John Roson)

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