(UPDATED) Flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) were suspended effective 7 p.m. of January 12, 2020 "until further notice" due to the ash fall following the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas.
The volcanic ash emissions have reached the skies over the airport in Metro Manila and as far as Quezon City, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) in its bulletin as of 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 12.
Some flights were diverted to Clark International Airport in Pampanga, but as of 10:30 p.m. Sunday, flights from Clark have also been cancelled including Air Asia Z2 909 bound for Cebu.
Earlier, at 9 p.m., Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Eddie V. Monreal said a total of 172 flights to and from NAIA were affected. Of these, 169 were cancelled while 3 were diverted.
In a press conference, Monreal said volcanic ash had started to accumulate at the runway. Suspension of flights was likely to be extended until Monday morning, January 13, because flight operations could not resume immediately even after the ash fall ceases due to the damaging effects of volcanic ash on aircraft and airport facilities.
Volcanic ash is known to abrade forward-facing surfaces, including windscreens, fuselage surfaces, and compressor fan blades. Ash contamination can also lead to failure of critical navigational and operational instruments, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.
PHIVOLCS said it has further raised the alert level over Taal Volcano to Alert Level 4, which means hazardous eruption is imminent within hours or days, and reiterated total evacuation within a 14-kilometer radius from the main crater.
“DOST-PHIVOLCS strongly reiterates total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and additional evacuation of areas at high risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within a 14-kilometer radius from Taal Main Crater,” the agency said.
The alert status of Taal quickly went up from Alert Level 2 to 4 in just one day because of continuous eruption since 2 p.m. which generated a “10 to 15-kilometer steam-laden tephra column with frequent volcanic lightning that rained wet ash fall” as far as Quezon City.
Volcanic earthquakes have also been plotted since 11 a.m. Sunday. The ash fall has caused the outage of five transmission lines, according to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.
The temporary closure of the NAIA, which is situated in the cities of Parañaque and Pasay in Metro Manila, was based on a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
All flights that were supposed to depart NAIA from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. were cancelled.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said the following international flights were diverted to Clark:
PR 721 London - Manila
PR 421 Haneda - Manila
PR 331 Xiamen - Manila
In a separate advisory, AirAsia said it has notified its passengers via email and SMS.
The airline said it was making the following options available to passengers whose flights were cancelled or delayed by longer than three hours: move their flights within 30 calendar days without additional cost, but subject to seat availability; retain the value of their fare in their BIG Loyalty account for future travel; or get a full refund.
Low-cost flag carrier Cebu Pacific Air, for its part, said it has posted the latest flight information at https://www.cebupacificair.com/Pages/flight-status while its ground crew were assisting affected passengers at the airport.
As of 7 p.m., Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the mandatory evacuation of residents within the danger zone.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has already given instructions to undertake measures necessary to place the people within the perimeter of Taal out of the danger zone,” Panelo said.
“Concerned agencies of the national government are now working closely with the Provincial Government of Batangas to ensure the safety of the residents, including their evacuation,” he added. (Ventures Cebu)