Philippine financial markets and businesses ground to a halt on Monday as ash fall from the eruption of Taal Volcano engulfed surrounding communities and reached Metro Manila.
The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) suspended trading on its bourse on Monday, citing the need “to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the volcanic ash emission of Taal Volcano”.
There was also no clearing and settlement at the Securities Clearing Corporation of the Philippines.
Spot peso-US dollar trading at the Philippine Dealing System was also suspended as the government called off work at offices.
This was the first time since the PSE, as a unified bourse, suspended stock trading due to volcanic ash fall.
In 1991, prior to the unification of the Manila and Makati stock exchanges to create the PSE, veteran stock brokers recalled that trading was also suspended after ash fall from Mt Pinatubo in Zambales province reached Metro Manila.
Banks and retail hubs close to Taal Volcano also went on a standstill.
“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. Online banking functions remain operational for consumer use,” the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) said in a press statement.
But the BAP assured that the country’s banks were prepared for emergency situations, and had measures in place to ensure continued operations during these times. It assured that nearby ATMs were adequately stocked and digital services were operational.
“We remain in close coordination with the BSP [Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas] to ensure that the needs of the banking public are met,” the BAP said, referring to the country’s central bank.
Property developer Ayala Land’s Ayala Malls Solenad in Nuvali and Ayala Malls Serin in Tagaytay were shut down on Monday “for safety checks and clearing works”.
However, the cinema building ground floor of the Nuvali mall was kept open for customers in need of shelter and charging stations.
The Gokongwei group’s Robinsons Mall Tagaytay also shut down operations.
Both Ayala Malls and Robinsons Mall waived overnight parking fees to accommodate stranded customers.
Meanwhile, the SM group assured the public that its sprawling SM Mall of Asia complex in Pasay City was on solid footing.
In a statement, the SM group said the mall was “built on concrete piles that reach the bedrock and will withstand extreme situations”, adding that references in social media suggesting that water would make the building collapse are “patently false”.
“We also have rigorous annual checks to ensure the safety of the buildings so at no time will the safety of our customers, tenants and employees be compromised,” SM group said.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK