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Davao City, Philippines

Flight delays expected to continue as Taal erupts

January 15, 2020 - Wednesday 6:01 PM by Funny Pearl A. Gajunera

Article Banner Image ESCAPE. Evacuating residents living at the foot of Taal Volcano unload their belongings from an outrigger canoe. The volcano’s eruption has forced the cancellation of a number of flights in and out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Ted ALJIBE / AFP

DAVAO CITY -- Davao International Airport (DIA) manager Rex Obcena has warned that flight delays are expected to continue for the entire week as both the DIA and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are still fixing the schedules of previously canceled flights.

This after Taal Volcano in Batangas began to erupt on Sunday, spewing ash clouds that sent volcanic ash falling over a large area of Luzon and forcing the cancelation of flights.

“This is inevitable due to what happened in Luzon. Of course we cannot sacrifice the safety of the public so there will be cancellation of flights for the safety of everybody,” Obcena said.

He said while minimal cancellations were observed during the past days, the airline companies are still catching up on their previously canceled flights.

On Tuesday, there were only two flight cancelations due to the ramp congestion at the NAIA.

He said passengers whose flights were previously cancelled were given priority on the next available flights.

“It will now be up to the airline companies if they will extend their operations,” he said.

On normal days, the last flight in DIA is at 11:30 p.m.

ROAD HAZARD. Residents riding on their motorcycle cover their faces as they traverse a road covered with ash spewed by Taal Volcano in Agoncillo town, Batangas on January 15, 2020. TED ALJIBE / AFP

John Lumapas, a passenger whose flight was delayed due to the Taal volcanic eruption, said he understands the situation since it is for the safety of the riding public.

Lumapas was about to take the 6:35 p.m. flight on Tuesday to Manila but it was delayed due to the congested ramp in NAIA.

“I fully understand the situation. I cannot push through with the flight and be mad at the authorities just because my flight was delayed. Their priority is our safety,” he said.

Falling ash had pushed aviation officials to temporarily shut down the NAIA, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and stranding tens of thousands of travellers.

The airport resumed reduced operations on Monday and was gradually recovering on Tuesday, but a backlog of cancelled flights resulted in ongoing pain for travellers.

‘Strong’ evacuation centers needed
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Christopher Lawrence Go visited and checked on the situation of more than 1,200 families affected by the eruption who are taking refuge in Batangas City.

 President Rodrigo Duterte hands over livelihood assistance for farmers and fisherfolks affected by the Taal Volcano eruption to Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas during his visit at the Batangas City Sports Coliseum on January 14, 2020. VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

ogether with other key officials, the President led the discussion on how to address and mitigate issues that the country is currently facing, especially with the possibility of Taal Volcano erupting again anytime soon.
During their visit, the President led the ceremonial distribution of calamity aid that consisted of food packs and cash assistance for every family from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), hygiene kits from the Department of Health (DOH), and food items from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
In addition to these, livelihood and financial assistance from the government were also handed over by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the benefit of affected farmers and fisherfolk.
During the briefing, the President ordered a simultaneous construction of “strong” evacuation centers and said he hopes the construction will be finished before his term ends.
“I hope that you can finish it before my term ends… I want projects that are doable and can be finished doing my term,” he said.

Go, for his part, expressed support for the President’s call for the building of permanent evacuation centers, especially in areas vulnerable to natural disasters.

Go had recently filed a bill providing for mandatory evacuation centers in all cities, provinces, and municipalities nationwide. 

A worker in Talisay town, Batangas walks past plants covered with mud and ash after Taal Volcano erupted on January 13, 2020. Ted ALJIBE / AFP

Go said it is necessary to build permanent evacuation centers nationwide to ensure the safety of Filipinos in times of natural calamities and other disasters given the  geographic location of the country. 

“The Philippines is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, attributed primarily to the country’s location. The country is positioned along the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire,’ an area where earthquakes and volcanic activities are more frequent than in any other part of the world,” Go said in the explanatory note of the proposed measure.

“Hence, it is high time that the State establish evacuation centers in all cities, provinces, and municipalities which will cater to the basic needs of the victims of these disasters and provide them temporary shelters that will guarantee their safety, promote their social wellbeing, and guard their welfare while they recover and rebuild their homes and their lives,” he added.

Go said the President is supportive of the proposed measure. “Kagaya ng gusto ni Pangulong Duterte, kailangan nating magpatayo ng safe, permanent at dedicated na evacuation (center) na kumpleto po sa mga kagamitan,” he said.