Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Noy leads detonation of 4,000 vintage bombs at Crow valley

By Aurea Calica

The Philippine Star, Sunday, March 6, 2011

President Aquino led yesterday the remote detonation of more than 4,000 World War II-era US bombs and other explosives and expressed relief that the American government finally granted his request for assistance in the cleanup of unexploded ordnance that had lain idle on Caballo Island near Corregidor.

The detonation was done in Crow Valley Range in Capas, Tarlac, as part of the Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal exercise. US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. was also at the event.

Aquino had requested US President Barack Obama to help the Philippines in the cleanup effort when they met in New York in September during the United Nations General Assembly and in Yokohoma in November at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The President pushed a button on a radio firing device, triggering a series of explosions that destroyed the vintage bombs.

The Philippine Navy said the safe transport of the unexploded ordnance from Caballo Island in Manila Bay and their detonation in Crow Valley through US help was a great achievement in itself.

Detonating the shells on Caballo Island, the Navy said, could have created “a destructive blast lethal to humans within a 32-kilometer radius and the catastrophic effect would have endangered nearby populated areas and ships plying Manila Bay and can be felt up to Sangley Point, the Philippine Navy Headquarters and the US embassy.”

Aquino said the danger posed by the unexploded shells had been one of the major problems faced by his administration.

“More than anything, I feel that this was really one of my first nightmares upon assuming office – that there was something left over from (the Second World War),” he said.

He commended the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the timely disposal of the explosives.

“The target date for completion was March 26. They managed to complete it on March 5, three weeks ahead of schedule. It was really quite impressive,” he said.

“The transport from Manila Bay to Subic to Tarlac also was an impressive operation – no untoward incidents, nobody was harmed, no injuries whatsoever,” he added.

The US government, according to the Philippine Navy, contracted a commercial landing craft tank that transported the explosives from Caballo Island to Crow Valley. The transport was completed on Feb. 6.

The exercise spearheaded by the Naval Special Operations Group of the Philippine Navy was the last phase of the Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operations. This phase began on Feb. 9 in Crow Valley with EOD teams from the Army, Air Force, Philippine National Police and Coast Guard.

The Navy said an aggregate net explosive weight of 364,348 pounds had been safely detonated.

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