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Cotabato flights resume amid haze

John Unson - The Philippine Star

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – All Manila-Cotabato and Cotabato-Manila flights resumed yesterday, ending a six-day suspension due to poor mid-air visibility that may have been caused by the haze from forest fires in Indonesia.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) also clarified that only small aircraft or those that rely on visibility are still prevented from landing or taking off in the early mornings in at least seven airports in the country.

Rodante Joya, CAAP deputy director general for operations, said those equipped with the modern Instrument Landing System (ILS) could fly even in heavy fog or haze.

“Rated pilots and fully equipped aircraft can land and take off anytime during any weather situation because our airports are equipped with the latest navigational instrument,” Joya said, referring to the Subic, Clark, Cebu-Mactan and Ninoy Aquino international airports.

He pointed out though that the airports in Dumaguete, Laguindingan, Zamboanga, Tagbilaran, Tambler and Cotabato are covered by a two- to three-hour flight suspension since Friday, usually starting at 5am.

In Bohol, hundreds of Manila-bound passengers rushed to the neighboring Cebu island as all Manila-Tagbilaran flights were rerouted to the Mactan-Cebu international airport.

Joel Palingcod, Tagbilaran airport tower controller, said no aircraft is given clearance to land or take off from here because of the airport’s lack of ILS.

He added that aircraft landing in the airport operates on visual flight rules, which may no longer be applicable as haze covered landmarks up to a radius of two kilometers. Aircraft flying on visual flight rules would need at least a five-kilometer radius to be able to watch for landmarks.

Palingcod, who communicated with his colleagues on Negros island, said it was worse for the Dumaguete airport, which declared visibility of only one kilometer.

Even given the limited visibility in some areas, CAAP has not issued a Notice to Airmen (Notam), which alerts aircraft pilots of hazards in the flight route or at a specific location.

The Maguindanao Airport, which services the Cotabato flights, was shut down on Oct. 17 after strong winds brought in the haze. Aviation authorities prevented even helicopters from flying over selected areas in Southern Mindanao to avoid accidents. The airport is located in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao, about eight kilometers southwest of Cotabato City.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) claimed the haze and the danger it brings prevented prospective investors from visiting Basilan by helicopter. The investors reportedly wanted to inspect potential sites for a 4,000-hectare foreign-assisted Cavendish banana farm project.

Kadil Sinolinding Jr., ARMM regional health secretary, also issued an advisory over the weekend to warn the people on the health problems that the haze can cause.

“The haze carries dust particles that can contaminate the air we breathe. It can cause itchy eyes, dry throat and cough, sneezing and allergy. Let’s avoid going around breathing the air in areas where the haze from Indonesia had spread,” he said.

He advised residents to drink plenty of water and take anti-cough medicine under the guidance of physicians once afflicted with cough.

“We are advising people in the autonomous region to stay indoors and avoid exposing themselves to these health hazards,” Sinolinding said.

Charlene Jamero, weather specialist of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), told reporters the poor visibility in Maguindanao is largely due to the haze. – With Angeline Valencia, Rudy Santos

vuukle comment

ACIRC

AIRPORT

ALL MANILA-COTABATO AND COTABATO-MANILA

CEBU-MACTAN AND NINOY AQUINO

CHARLENE JAMERO

CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY OF THE PHILIPPINES

COTABATO CITY

DATU ODIN SINSUAT

DUMAGUETE

HAZE

IN BOHOL

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