Aquino chides official on inaccurate quake info
'If we’re not careful of the language, we add to the general sense of malice and fear,' Aquino says during a command conference in Bohol

DON'T CAUSE PANIC. President Aquino, shown here inspecting the damage at the Tagbilaran port October 16, tells officials to give accurate information during disasters. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines – “Critical” or more than enough?

A word used by a regional trade official during a briefing in Bohol province on Wednesday, October 16, got President Benigno Aquino III started on the need for officials to give out only accurate information in the aftermath of the Visayas quake.

“In the absence of information, and if we’re not careful of the language, we add to the general sense of malice and fear,” he said during a command conference in Tagbilaran City a day after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the province and the rest of Central Visayas.

During the command conference, Region VII Trade and Industry Director Aster Caberte was asked about the fuel supply in Bohol.

Caberte initially said, “As far as petroleum products, Mr. President, this is quite critical because we are running at 8-day supply at the moment.”

The President asked: “Ano ang normal supply ninyo sa province for petroleum products?” (What is the normal supply for petroleum products in the province?)

“It’s a one week supply, one week inventory,” Caberte said.

“So now we have more than the normal?” Aquino again asked, to which the DTI official replied, “Yeah.”

Then, Aquino interrupted: “[It looks like] we have a critical problem, what is the normal supply? Seven days. What we have on hand? Eight days.”

Turning to Caberte, the President said: “How could it be critical? Let us not give false info.”

He also cited news on casualties in schools, even when the quake occurred on Tuesday, October 15, a national holiday – the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha.

“I want to point out ‘critical’ – be careful of the phrases. For instance, in the papers (Wednesday), binabasa ko lang (I was reading) – I think it was in reference to Cebu – they were checking on a school and students. It was a holiday. There should have been no school,” he said.

Panic buying

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas had to butt in, and had to explain that people were buying more fuel due to fears of shortage. This could could affect the actual petroleum reserves in the province.

“When we come up with statements that the fuel supply is critical, the fear will increase, okay?” the President cautioned.

In the end, Roxas clarified that the fuel supply will not be a problem in the coming days.

The secretary said: “The facilities are not damaged, so the ships that normally come and discharge their fuel will still be able to do that because they don’t dock. They discharge this offshore. So the pipeline remains and the ability to discharge is continuous.”

In Cebu, the President again reiterated the need to give only correct information to the public.

He said: “Last night Vice Governor [Agnes] Magpale was telling us about a text blast anticipating a 10 o’clock earthquake…and she had to go out and say, ‘There’s no mechanism nor science in the world that can predict [it].'”

“Continuous education helps, [and] eases everybody’s mind and lessen the stresses the people are undergoing,” Aquino added.

The President also pointed out the need to clarify basic information. He used the number of aftershocks as an example.

He said in the Bohol command conference: “Out of the 844 [aftershocks as of Wednesday afternoon], 14… aftershocks are felt. So bottom line… I just want to assure everybody na hindi naman talaga parang may darating pang mas malakas sa [magnitude] 7.2, ‘di ba? O baka kung hindi 7.2, 7.1 naman. Baka kung anu-anong haka-haka ang umiiral.”

(I just want to assure everybody that it doesn’t really look like there would be an aftershock that’s stronger than magnitude 7.2, right? If not 7.2, 7.1. Lots of speculations are prevailing, it may seem.)

Aquino continued: “Tapos babalik tayo doon, ‘di ba? Magtatakutan tayo dito, gagawa tayo ng problema sa sitwasyon na walang problema, magpa-panic buying tayo na bigla na lang nandyan pala lahat ng supply. Parang mag-i-induce ka nga ng shortages ‘pag tinimes (times) 3, times 4, times 5 mo ‘yung normal consumption dahil kinakabahan ka.”

(Then, we’ll go back there, right? We’ll be scaring ourselves here, creating problems in situations that don’t have problems. We’ll be panic-buying, but all the supplies are just there. It’s like inducing shortages when you multiply the normal consumption by 3, 4 or 5 times just because you’re nervous.)

“So, especially for government, our role is really to lead at this point,” he added. –