PA official rules out sabotage in CDO ammo dump blaze

DEEPER PROBE. The aftermath of the explosion at the ammo dump complex inside the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) headquarters, compared to its original structure (inset, upper left). Based on initial assessment, the 4ID ruled out sabotage since the facility’s locks were still intact, and there was no sign of forced entry. (Photo courtesy of 4ID)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Lt. Col. Vladimir Sta. Maria, commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s Fourth Infantry Division’s (4ID) 10th Forward Service Support Unit has ruled out sabotage behind the fearsome explosion and blaze that destroyed the Division’s ammunition dump depot at the Camp Edilberto Evangelista here midnight last Tuesday.

Sta. Maria said said the locks securing the depot’s metal doors were still intact, suggesting there was no forced entry. He noted that the facility has an updated safety inspection certificate as of March 22, 2022, from the Bureau of Fire Protection.

The 4ID’s own board of inquiry (BOI), he said, will begin this week its deeper investigation on the facility’s soaking and cooling mechanism, which serves to prevent remaining unexploded ordnance to explode.

Maj. Gen. Wilbur Mamawag, 4ID commander, said the BOI will be composed of Army and civilian officials. “We will also invite officials from Barangay Patag and representatives from the local government of Cagayan de Oro City,” Mamawag said, adding that the 4ID is expected to finish its report by July 17.
Aside from the BOI, personnel of the PNP Scene of the Crime Operation and the Bureau of Fire Protection are also conducting their own probes.

From July 14 to 17, the Explosives and Ordnance Division team will conduct clearing operations and handle possible ordnance still present in the place of the incident.

Philippine Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner, said the 4ID incident should be a good reference for upgrading the various facilities inside Army headquarters nationwide.

“We will transfer the ammo dumps to safer places. There are already stringent protocols and strict policies in place for the management of ammo dump facilities, but whatever the results of the investigation will be, we may make certain adjustments,” Brawner said in a press conference Tuesday evening.

The Army top brass said the incident is actually not an isolated case, as other military facilities in other countries also have experienced burning of ammunition storage facilities without external threats.

The 4ID estimates the explosion damages to be worth P27.7 million. Some 61 families or 327 individuals residing near the facility were also evacuated. Three injured civilians identified as Reynald Quirweca, 45; Acolbay Escalante, 22; and Curt Angelo Cuizon, 15 were all declared safe following the incident.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Northern Mindanao has also sent 100 family food packs for the displaced families.

Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Rolando Uy has appealed for sobriety following the fire incident resulting from the series of explosions.

“I enjoin all residents to stay calm and refrain from speculating on the accident at the 4ID headquarters that shook the city,” he said in a statement. (With PNA reports)