Brawner: AFP ammo still enough vs rebels despite fire at storage facility
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Despite the damage caused by a fire in its ammunition storage facility on Tuesday, the Philippine Army assured that it still had enough munition supplies in its arsenal to fight state enemies.
Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commanding general of the Philippine Army, said the fire at Magazine 5 — one of the buildings that serve as 4th ID’s munitions depot — destroyed around P27.7 million worth of ammunition, most of them 155-millimeter howitzer rounds.
Three persons were injured by shrapnel and debris from the fire that set off a series of explosions within the ammunition storage complex inside the 4th ID headquarters at Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Barangay Patag here.
“Do not rejoice that it caught fire because we still have enough ammunition that we can use against you if you will not surrender,” said Brawner, addressing communist insurgents and local armed groups.
The Army’s10th Forward Service Support Unit manages the facility where the fire started (FSSU).
Brawner, who was here to inspect the extent of the damage, said the damaged ammunition was only a fraction of the AFP’s total ordnance and munitions supply.
“Compared to our ammunition nationwide, in all army units, this is just a very small part. That is why this will not affect the operations of the Philippine Army and of the AFP against the threats to national security,” said Brawner, who briefly served as 4th ID commander before his current post.
He told reporters during a press conference at the 4th ID headquarters Tuesday that their combat activities against armed groups would continue as the fire did not affect the overall capability of the army.
“Our call for you to surrender still stands, so you will not get hit by our ammunition. You may have seen the capability of our firepower. It is best that you surrender,” he said.
He added that rebels who would return to the folds of the law could benefit from the government’s “balik baril” scheme and the enhanced comprehensive local integration program or ECLIP.
Brawner also assured that the exploded ammunitions had not yet expired at the time that these caught fire. “We didn’t store expired ammunition. We have a procedure to dispose of these properly. It is very dangerous to store expired ammunition,” he said.
Brawner also said they were considering transferring the ammunition depot to a safe location, preferably away from the civilian population, if necessary.
“Part of the investigation is to look at the safety of the ammunition storage facility. We will have to transfer if we find it dangerous to people around it,” he said.
He said some army ammunition depots, like the one in Camp Panacan in Davao City, had already been moved to another place when their locations had become overpopulated.
Col. Vladimir Sta. Maria, 10th FSSU commanding officer, said the fire that caused the explosions might have been triggered by what he called a “chemical reaction.”
“If gunpowder is exposed to a certain environment, it may trigger a chemical reaction that may (cause it to explode),” Sta. Maria said during the same press briefing. But he ruled out the possibility that it was an act of sabotage.
During his visual presentation detailing the incident, Sta. Maria said Magazine 5’s doors were locked before the fire, indicating that there was no break-in to the facility.
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