ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/29 September) – The chief of the state-run Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) announced Sunday that they will reopen the hospital as soon as it is cleared and cleaned.
Dr. Romeo Ong announced this as military and police Explosive Ordnance Demolition (EOD) teams conducted clearing operations in the premises of ZCMC, which was vacated on Days 1 and 2 (September 9 and 10) of the standoff between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under founding chair Nur Misuari.
“We want to reopen as soon as possible… as soon as we clear the area, meaning we clean, we disinfect and we’ll prepare all the equipment,” Ong said.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin declared “mission accomplished” while Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas announced, “the siege in Zamboanga is over” (see other stories).
The ZCMC, which has just been elevated to a 500-bed capacity hospital, was vacated because it is very close to the site of hostilities between government forces and the MNLF.
The hospital is located at the corner of Veterans Avenue and Dr. Evangelista Street in Barangay Sta. Catalina.
It is just around 150 meters from Lustre Street, where hundreds of MNLF rebels positioned at the height of the standoff.
After ZCMC was closed, the gymnasium of the government-run Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) was converted into an emergency satellite hospital.
The patients of ZCMC were transferred to the government-run Mindanao Central Sanitarium in Barangay Pasobolong and some private hospitals.
Ong said they have yet to assess whether there were equipment damaged although he was initially informed by the security and hospital personnel that the equipment are intact.
Ong said the newest equipment they have is the P70-million Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which was given to them by the city government.
Ong said the MRI has not been installed because it arrived evening of September 8. The standoff began dawn of September 9.
The ZCMC was used by government forces as an advance medical post at the height of the standoff, Ong said.
But the New York-based Human Rights Watch in its Sept. 16 report said Philippine military forces “may also have violated the laws of war by turning the largest hospital in Zamboanga City, the Zamboanga City Medical Center, into a veritable garrison.”
“After the hospital staff evacuated all the patients on the first day of the crisis, the military promptly moved its forces into the hospital, parking their trucks inside the hospital compound and even sending snipers to two spots on the rooftop to fire on rebels a few hundred meters way,” it said.
Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, information officer of the Police Regional Office-9, said the clearing operation is to ensure the safety of the staff and patients once the hospital is reopened.
He said they want to ensure that there are no unexploded munitions within the hospital premises.
During the clearing operations, they recovered several sets of MNLF uniforms just outside the perimeter fence at the eastern side of the hospital compound. (MindaNews)