Cannery owner says blast “act of terror;” Mayor Acharon says it “didn’t fit terrorist pattern”

Although the company denied having received any extortion letter from any group, Rodrigo Rivera Sr., president and general manager of the RD Group, insisted that the explosion outside the PhilBest Canning Corp, which it operates, was “a terror act.”

Rivera gave this opinion citing what he claimed as absence of labor problem in the canning plant, and which authorities have theorized as a possible motive in the explosion that killed four persons and wounded at least 27 others, mostly workers of the canning firm who were leaving the plant on off duty.

Initial reports from police and military explosive and ordnance experts said the explosion was triggered by a timing device fashioned out from a mobile phone. The improvised explosive device (IED) was reportedly made out of a water pump pipe and traces of trinitrotoluene (TNT) were found by bomb experts in the blast scene.

TNT is a chemical compound commonly used as explosive material.

But General Santos City Mayor Pedro Acharon downplayed the incident saying that it “did not fit the terrorist pattern”.

"Philbest was outside the city proper," he said. He, however, said he would wait for the final result of police investigations as he also ordered the police and military to go after the perpetrators

Police authorities earlier said they were looking into every possible angle, including labor disputes at the tuna canning plant, as motive behind the blast. But Rivera belied the theory.

"We have none of that in our companies," he said. Rivera assured the victims and their families that his company would underwrite the burial and hospital bills.

Rivera’s RD Group is a conglomerate of home-grown businesses that are into tuna fishing, real estate, aquaculture, banking and finance, tuna canning and processing and export, tin can manufacturing, resort and hotel business and shipbuilding.

The January 30 explosion was the 16th incident since May 2000 and the first since January 10 last year when an improvised explosive device was detonated at a lotto outlet near the public market here. Six persons died in that explosion.

The bloodiest explosions were at the Fitmart Department Store in April 2002, also owned by RD Group, and at the public market in December 2004, when 15 and 16 persons were killed,  respectively.

Previous explosions in the city were blamed on the Abu Sayyaf, listed as “foreign terrorist organization” by the US State department. (Edwin Espejo/MindaNews contributor)