BAGUMBAYAN, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews / 8 Sep) – A huge spark of light in the middle of a dark hill, followed by loud explosion, then a mushroom cloud formed up in the sky like a small version of an atom bomb exploding, later followed by the roaring sound of rocks and soil descending from the mountain, an indication of a landslide.
But there was no cause for alarm, as it was an explosion carefully planned by government bomb experts who detonated Thursday evening about six tons of dynamites seized last month from an abandoned mining site in this municipality.
Supt. Raul Supiter, Sultan Kudarat provincial police director, said Army and police bomb experts used blasting caps and time fuse to ignite the explosives down the river in Barangay Titulok, Bagumbayan, owned by a private shooting range.
The process of disposal took government troops one whole day when the explosives, retrieved from an abandoned mining site of China Mining firm in Bai Saripinang in this town last month, were transported to provincial headquarters in Isulan town for booking and investigation before these were finally brought to Barangay Titulok.
The process was witnessed and recorded by town officials, as well as representatives from the Department of Justice and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and explosive experts from the police, Army and National Bureau of Investigation.
The explosives were carefully and meticulously loaded into three dump trucks and brought to a river in Titulok by dozens of local folks hired to do the task.
“We have chosen the river inside a private firing range because it was strategically situated for blasting. It was below the national highway, far from inhabitants,” Supiter said.
But despite coordinating with local officials and a local radio announcement, news of the planned detonation did not reach the majority of residents, leading to an uproar on social media.
Supiter said Mayor Bernardita Bito-onon officially informed the people of Bagumbayan while the police chiefs of towns surrounding the area were also alerted about the planned disposal.
Already paranoid over bomb threats across the region, many residents were alarmed by the lone powerful blast which reverberated in the towns of Sto. Niño, Surallah, Norala in South Cotabato; Esperanza, Isulan and Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat; and Ampatuan, Abdullah Sangki and Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao.
But Supiter maintained that local officials and the general public in Region 12 were properly informed.
“Lucky enough these very dangerous explosives did not land in the wrong hands,” Supiter said of the 36,000 sticks of dynamites.
In a radio interview earlier, Supiter alerted the people in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato of the planned explosive disposal.
The gold mine site was abandoned after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in July.
Bagumbayan Mayor Jonalette de Pedro lauded the efforts made by security forces for locating the huge volume of explosives hidden in the ranges of his town.
“I’m so thankful they were able to locate and destroy the explosives. We have no idea that we had that sizeable amount of explosives brought here by large scale miners,” she said, adding that local government officials are against the mining, but the mining company was granted permission by the DENR’s Geosciences and Mines Bureau (GMB).
De Pedro vowed that under her watch as mayor, she will block any attempt at mining, even at the exploratory stage, especially those that will use blasting.
Explosive experts say it would be too dangerous to manage a stockpile of this huge amount of explosive because of sensitivity to heat, lightning or any accident which expected to bring more damage to communities and worst if terror groups will be interested to intercept and make this on their advantage to launch more attacks. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)