Army assures safe storage of explosives, ordnance after deadly Beirut blasts

The Philippine Army (PA) on Monday guaranteed the safe handling of its explosives and other ordnance capabilities to avoid accidents like the twin explosions in Beirut, Lebanon.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (6th Infantry Division – Kampilan Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

The blasts which occurred in the capital city's port last August 4 were reportedly triggered by the detonation of about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stockpiled in a warehouse for six years.

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical component which could be used in explosive mixtures.

"The Philippine Army values the safety not only of its personnel but also of the people and as such, we ensure the proper handling and stockpiling of all our explosives and ordnance capabilities," said Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, Army commanding general.

He described the Beirut blasts as "an unfortunate incident" that "took many lives and caused destruction to property" but one that "could have been avoided."

He noted though that ammonium nitrate is not stored in army camps since it is primarily used in agriculture as a fertilizer.

"We nonetheless guarantee the public that we employ measures to avoid such incidents from happening," Sobejana stressed.

There were several instances where accidental explosions occurred in the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

In 2014, the Army's Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit was hit by a fire where various types of ammunition were stored, causing several explosions.

Meanwhile, authorities said 154 individuals have been killed in the Beirut explosions including four Filipinos. Forty-seven Filipinos were also injured in the accident, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

On August 16, a chartered plane will fly to Beirut to bring home the remains of the Filipino fatalities and repatriate around 400 others who were affected by the blasts.

Around 33,000 Filipinos are in Lebanon and about 75 percent are in Beirut, according to the DFA. Most of them are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).