By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN and JAMES A. LOYOLA
Philippine financial markets were shut yesterday to ensure the safety of traders and other employees after Taal Volcano, located 50 kilometers south of Manila, erupted Sunday and spread big volumes of ash that reached Metro Manila and forced suspension of hundred of flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) suspended trading and clearing operations yesterday due to the eruption of Taal Volcano last Sunday.
The bourse said “there will be no trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange and no clearing and settlement at the Securities Clearing Corporation of the Philippines today, January 13, 2020, to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the volcanic ash emission of Taal Volcano.”
PSE Chief Operating Officer Roel Refran said in a mobile message that the exchange has yet to decide whether trading and clearing operations will resume today.
Due to the Taal Volcano eruption and the resulting ashfall cloud that has spread across Luzon, the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) has suspended foreign exchange trading activities on Monday.
As of press time yesterday the volcanic eruption was still continuing the authorities warned of possible stronger explosion ahead.
BAP also reminded banks to consider the safety of all its employees particularly in affected nearby areas around Batangas where Taal is located.
“Pursuant to BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) Circular No. 1043 Section 3(b) of Annex A and Malacañang’s announcement of no work of government offices due to Taal Volcano eruption, please be advised that the BAP US dollar/Philippine peso spot trading will be closed,” BAP Managing Director Benjamin P. Castillo said.
“Banks are also encouraged to exercise management discretion to ensure the safety and welfare of their people during this emergency situation brought about by Taal Volcanic eruption,” he added.
Taal Volcano erupted Sunday morning and expelled large amounts of ash cloud and spreading across the CALABARZON area which includes besides Batangas, the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Quezon. Since Sunday, evacuations have been ongoing in Talisay, San Nicholas, Tanuan, Lipa, Agoncillo and Balete.
The ashfall has also reached as far as Marikina and Quezon City in Metro Manila by late in the afternoon of January 12.
Taal Volcano is currently spewing magma and a lava fountain. The volcano is the country’s second most active volcano after Mt. Mayon in Albay. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1977.
In a follow up statement, BAP said banks located in “heavily affected areas of the Taal Volcanic eruption are closed or with limited operations to ensure the safety of its employees, whereas banks in other areas remain open for banking operations.”
The group said online banking functions “remain operational for consumer use”.
“Banks are nevertheless prepared for emergency situations and have measures in place to ensure continued operations in these times.The banking public can be assured that nearby ATMs are adequately stocked and digital services are operational,” said BAP.
“We remain in close coordination with the BSP to ensure that the needs of the banking public are met,” the group added.