AFP chief orders probe on armory fire

Nov. 10, 2008

General Santos City — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff general Alexander Yano ordered the Philippine Army’s 6th infantry division (ID) to carry out an immediate probe on the cause of fire that razed an ammunition stockhouse last week.

Yano, who immediately flew in to the area to personally inspect and assess the extent of damage the incident wrought gave the 6th ID commander major general Raymundo Ferrer 48 hours to have the cause of fire determined.

The fire started at 4:30 in the morning the AFP’s field armory support supply unit building inside Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan Province.

The military believed that the fire was set off by exposure of a white phosphorous to other elements in the stockhouse.

Army investigating the incident have ruled out “attack or sabotage” as having triggered the fire stressing “it is not apparent.”

Still, Yano said the 6th ID should carry on with the investigation “so as to prevent similar incidents in the near future.”

Colonel Julieto Ando, 6th ID spokesman stressed that the incident will not in any way disrupt the Army’s ongoing offensives against rogue elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The incident will not affect the ongoing operations aspect of the command since the ammunition that were burned were all defective and subject for disposal,” he said. Among those charred were 61mm and 81mm mortars, cannons and other firearms and ammunition.

Ando rationalized the facility that stored the AFP’s defective cannons, mortars and other ammunition, mostly old and unserviceable was located in an isolated area, about 20 meters away from the main headquarters.

“(It was) located in between two hills as precautionary measure for incident such as fire,” he explained saying the area was declared “fire out” immediately at six in the morning, though earlier announcements by eastern Mindanao command spokesperson major Randolph Cabangbang said that the fire had been put out at 6:30.

Still, the intense explosion resulting from fire, made residents near the area flee their homes believing it was another firefight between the Moro rebels and the military forces.

Army investigators initially estimated the damage and losses at P10.6 million. No other damaged facility or casualty was, however, reported. Ando said further investigation of the incident is ongoing. (PIA SarGen)

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