Two major Philippine airlines cancel domestic flights due to haze

A Philippine Airlines (PAL) aircraft taxis on a runway at Manila International Airport.
A Philippine Airlines (PAL) aircraft taxis on a runway at Manila International Airport.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - Two major carriers have begun cancelling domestic flights to three key cities in the Philippines because of haze caused by Indonesia's raging wildfires that have blanketed the nation's central and southern regions.

Philippines Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific have stopped their daily runs to Cotabato city in the southern island of Mindanao since Saturday (Oct 17).

Cebu Pacific also cancelled two flights to General Santos city, also in Mindanao, yesterday (Oct 22), and one flight to another city, Dumaguete, in central Philippines today (Oct 23).

These cities are gateways to regions that are home to nearly 10 million people.

The Cotabato airport services Maguindanao province, home to over 1 million and a gateway to central Mindanao.

Weather official Roy Jumawan said "very poor visibility" had made it difficult and risky for pilots to land and takeoff at airports hit by thick layers of greyish cloud

Haze has been blanketing large parts of Mindanao this month.

Apart from Cotabato, other cities affected were Davao and General Santos in the southern half of Mindanao, and Cagayan de Oro farther north of the island.

Thick layers of greyish cloud consistent with haze have also been reported in parts of Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Weather officials said monsoon winds blowing north-east, as well as wind patterns created by typhoon Koppu, which recently ploughed across northern Philippines, could be causing smoke and dust from nearly thousands of forest fires in Indonesia's Kalimantan and Sumatra regions over 1,000km away to drift towards Mindanao.

Early this month (Oct), metropolitan Cebu, a major port city of 4 million people in central Philippines was enveloped in haze for over a week.

rdancel@sph.com.sg