Zamboanga bomb squad 'more careful' in explosives disposal

By QUEENIE CASIMIRO, ABS-CBN Zamboanga

Posted at Mar 11 2009 10:06 AM | Updated as of Mar 11 2009 06:06 PM

Learning from the Starmaker bomb detonation accident in Cavite province last week, experts from the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) guided the local bomb squad on how to safely dispose of explosives to avoid any accidents and damages to properties nearby.

Members of the local bomb squad in Zamboanga City disposed several explosives that were recovered in different parts of the city and kept in the custody of the Philippine Army's 3rd Explosive and Ordnance Division.

Lt. Jim Vandevoort, JSOTF-P Explosive Ordnance Division Task Unit commander, said that extreme caution is being observed during every disposal procedure they conduct.

"There will be minimal people in this area. Only me, a bomb-tech from the Philippine National Police and one from the Armed Forces of the Philippines,"  Vandevoort said.
   
Vandevoort's team has participated in more than a hundred unexploded ordnance disposal activities and he said there have been no accidents so far.

On Friday, the bomb experts disposed 64 pieces of 60 mm mortars, 26 hand grenades, one 105mm projectile, five 81mm mortars, an rocket-propelled grenade and an 82mm illumination mortar.

"Our primary role is to train and assist them on how to safely dispose these things," Vandevoort said.

Superintendent Jose Bayani Gucela, meanwhile, said bomb disposal is a regular activity to make sure "none of these ordnance reach the hands of armed groups such as lawless MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) groups and the Abu Sayyaf Group."

Some of the explosives disposed were among those recovered after the 2001 Cabatangan Siege, which were put under the custody of the3rd Army EOD. A few of the bombs, meanwhile, were duds that were recovered from the AFP Armory.     

Last Thursday, a police ordnance team member was injured after almost 3,000 kilos of black powder exploded in his face during a firecracker disposal procedure at the Starmaker firecracker factory.

Police Officer 2 Richard Emil was tasked to light up the three tons of black firecracker powder with a matchstick in an empty lot in Barangay Cabuco, Trece Martires City during a disposal procedure at about 10 a.m. The black powder blasted as soon as Emil has lighted it up, burning his face.

The policeman was immediately rushed to Mark James Hospital for immediate medical attention. He suffered from first degree burns on his hands and face, Starmaker Task Force head, Senior Superintendent Efren de Castro said.

The explosives were recovered from the Starmaker firecracker factory, which exploded in January, killing 11 workers and damaging an estimated P40-million worth of properties within the city.