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Cablegate: Text Message Rumors Show Rising Public Concern

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005393

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES/IHA FOR JKAUFMANN
STATE FOR INR/EAP FOR JSTROTZ
STATE PASS USDA/FAS/ICD FOR ROSENBLUM
STATE PASS USDA/FAS/DL&P FOR MAGINNIS
STATE PASS USDA/FAS/ITP/AA FOR ALEXANDER
STATE PASS USDA/FAS/FAA FOR HAGER
STATE PASS USDA/APHIS/IS FOR HOFFMAN
STATE PASS USDA/APHIS/VS FOR DUVERNOY
STATE PASS USDA/ARS/SEPRL FOR SUAREZ
STATE PASS USAID FOR DCARROLL AND ACLEMENTS
BANGKOK FOR REO JAMES WALLER
CIA FOR NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL NIO/EA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PINR SOCI EAGR SENV TBIO TSPL RP
SUBJECT: TEXT MESSAGE RUMORS SHOW RISING PUBLIC CONCERN
OVER AVIAN FLU

REF A) MANILA 05291 B) MANILA 05059 C) MANILA 04278

1. This is an information message.

--------
SUMMARY
--------
2. The Philippines remains free of Highly Pathogenic
Avian Influenza (HPAI), but recent text message rumors of
HPAI cases in the Philippines show rising public
awareness and concern over avian flu. The GRP faces
increasing challenges in managing AI information. The
Department of Agriculture debunked two recent text
messages warning of avian flu cases in Negros Occidental
and Cebu. The messages suggest public skepticism over
GRP reporting of AI cases. As the GRP expands its public
awareness campaigns, such rumors may become more frequent
and public information strategies will be increasingly
important. End Summary

3. The GRP issued strong statements critical of two
recent text messages warning of positive avian flu cases
in Negros Occidental and Cebu. On November 9, the
Department of Agriculture (DA) refuted a text message,
initially circulated on November 5, warning of a positive
avian flu case in Escalante, Negros Occidental. DA noted
that the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) conducted random
surveillance in October to test poultry for HPAI in the
Escalante area, but found no evidence of HPAI. BAI also
reported that test results from one dead migratory bird
from Escalante indicated that the bird died of natural
causes. The Poultry Growers Association of Negros
Oriental reported a 40% decline in sales of live poultry
on the day after the text message circulated. The group
estimated the text messages caused 1.2 million pesos
($200,000) in losses to the Negros poultry industry. DA
previously had refuted a similar text message warning
that two migratory birds had died from avian flu in
Cogon, Pardo in Cebu. BAI explained that two local birds
died from contusions caused by air guns or slingshots.

4. In responding to both incidents, the GRP underscored
recent initiatives to raise public awareness of avian flu
and train regional teams for prevention and preparedness.
As reported in ref A, the GRP has intensified these
campaigns during the October-February migratory bird
season. President Arroyo appointed the head of the GRP
mass media group to assist the Avian Flu task force in
preparing and implementing its communications strategy.

5. COMMENT: We expect rumors of HPAI cases to increase
as the GRP and the Philippine media raise public
awareness of the avian flu threat. These recent rumors
demonstrate the economic damage that AI reports can cause
and underscore the interest of the DA and poultry farmers
in managing information about suspected AI cases. As
reported in ref B, the GRP has a limited surveillance
capacity and must rely on poultry farmers and public
cooperation to report possible HPAI cases. Although the
text message rumors suggest public concern over GRP's
ability to handle avian flu, the widespread use of text
messaging strongly suggests that it would be unlikely for
an HPAI outbreak to go unnoticed.

JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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