The haze that blanketed parts of Mindanao and some islands in the Visayas, which is a combination of smoke and haze or “smaze” from forest fires in Indonesia, can reach Manila if another storm hits the country, an expert said.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (Pagasa) said the “smaze” was caused by equatorial winds enhanced by Typhoon Lando.
Pagasa Acting Administrator Vicente Malano said that wind analysis using the Singapore-based Haze Information Portal of the Asean Specialized Meteorological Center showed that the typhoon’s powerful winds may have blown the smaze from peat land forest fires in Indonesia into the country, particularly over Mindanao and Palawan-Visayas Islands.
“Thick smaze began to manifest late September particularly during [the] occurrence of tropical cyclones in North Western Pacific areas,” Malano stated.
Forest and peat land fire occur in Western Pacific countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines and others during a strong El Niño where these places experience hot and dry climate.
“The public is advised to take appropriate precautionary actions to avoid hazards brought about by this thick smaze. Indonesian and some Asean authorities are cooperating and helping to control the peat land forest fires situation in Indonesia,” Malano said.
“The Pagasa will continue to monitor this phenomenon and updates will be issued as necessary,” he added.
Meanwhile, Anthony Joseph Lucero, Chief of the Climate Information and Prediction Section, in a phone interview on Saturday said the haze from Indonesian forest fires is severe that authorities are struggling to put out the fires, many of which have flared up in flammable and dry peat-rich areas.
Lucero told The Manila Times that there is a possibility that the smaze can reach Metro Manila if another typhoon will hit the country.
“If a typhoon comes in and will [make] landfall in the Philippines, it can re-occur as what happened after Lando or even worse and reach Manila,” Lucero said.
He noted that if the smaze becomes serious and severe, it can be a health hazard especially to people suffering lung diseases like asthma or tuberculosis.
“El Niño is the cause of the dry condition in Indonesia. Their forests have a lot of deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and trees. While in the process of decaying, it forms combustible materials and during El Niño, temperature rises and rains will be lesser. The burnt land also becomes drier, which makes it more likely to catch fire once exposed to heat and pressure,” he added.
Meanwhile, domestic flights to and from Cotabato Airport remained cancelled for the eighth straight day because of “very low visibility” or almost zero visibility as a result of the week-long haze in the region.
PAL and Cebu Pacific ticketing offices have refused to issue tickets until its main offices issue the go signal.
The Environmental Management Bureau in Central Visayas said in its Twitter account there is a high haze-forming pollution in the region and urged the public to wear personal protective equipment.
Bohol-bound passengers from Manila have been re-routed to Cebu. Tagbilaran Airport officials announced that visibility rate is low within two kilometers.
As a result, stranded Manila-bound passengers from Bohol opted to take fastcrafts to Cebu so they can leave from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.