Several flights from the Philippines going to and coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were diverted as a precaution against a rocket launch by China, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said on Saturday.
The CAAP issued a Notice to- Airmen (Notam) to keep all aircraft from the path of the rocket launch from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. of Saturday.
“The Notam covers an area approximately 250 kilometers from west of Manila Bay and 430 kilometers west of Lingayen Gulf [in Pangasinan, north of Manila],” it said.
The aviation authority added that the affected western portion of Manila Flight Information Region airways was closed and aircraft were given advice on alternate flight routes.
The CAAP said they have no idea how many commercial flights going to China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were diverted because even aircraft passing Philippine airspace were also affected by the China rocket launch.
The rocket launch posed no serious threat to the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), Malacanang assured on Sunday.
Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office made the statement in connection with the CAAP warning to Philippine pilots to avoid the South China Sea as China launched the rocket also on Saturday.
China blasted off its “Long March-7” new generation carrier rocket on a successful inaugural voyage from a new launch center, state media reported, as the country races ahead with an ambitious space program.
The medium-sized, two-stage rocket is expected to become the main carrier for China’s future space missions.
It can carry up to 13.5 tons to low-Earth orbit — a payload one and a half times greater than those of China’s existing rockets.
BENJIE L. VERGARA, LLANESCA T. PANTI AND AFP