Haze from Indonesia is the culprit
Haze from Indonesian forest fires has spread to the southern Philippines, disrupting air traffic and prompting warnings for residents to wear face masks, authorities said on Friday.
Mindanao is more than 1,200 kilometers from the nearest fires but the haze has become a worsening problem over the past week, aviation authorities said.
Two domestic flights have been canceled and dozens delayed at 10 airports on Mindanao since Oct. 16, affecting thousands of passengers, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesperson Eric Apolonio said.
Apolonio said, on some occasions, pilots could not see the airstrip as they were coming into land.
“If you cannot see the runway, it is very dangerous. You cannot always depend on instruments,” he told AFP.
Dense haze hung like a cloud of dust over Davao, Mindanao’s largest city with 1.5 million people, on Friday afternoon, plunging it under an early twilight.
Its airport, one of those affected according to Apolonio, handles 48 flights a day.
With visibility down to 1.2 kilometers at some times during the day, aircraft are forced to circle and wait above the runways for up to an hour, according to Apolonio.
Pilots can normally see up to 10 kilometers, he added.
Apolonio said the flight delays were also disrupting the busy Manila airport, with some Mindanao-bound flights being held back.
Because the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is operating at its full capacity of 40 landings and takeoffs per hour, any delay involving Mindanao flights disrupts the aircraft queue for the rest of the day, he added.
For nearly two months, dense haze produced by Indonesian slash-and-burn farmers have suffocated vast expanses of Southeast Asia.
This has caused rates of respiratory illnesses to soar, schools to close, and scores of flights and some international events to be canceled. AFP