Police explains hour-long closure of highway in suspected IED incident

The Catanduanes police had to explain to the public last week why it closed a stretch of the highway in front of Camp Francisco Camacho for an hour, trapping people in several offices in the area including the provincial hospital.

FOR AN HOUR in the morning of Feb. 23, 2022, this portion of the national highway in front of Camp Francisco Camacho was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic after a bomb-sniffing dog of the Catanduanes police sat by a car (inset) parked along the camp’s perimeter fence. Scores of people were “trapped” at the provincial hospital and nearby offices as the entire stretched was emptied of people before the explosive disposal unit said all was clear.

According to the police, the Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Canine Unit (EODK9) headed by PCMS Joseph Teope was conducting a so-called “camp paneling” or security scanning of the area along the perimeter fence in front of the camp at around 9 AM of Feb. 23, 2022 when its Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) stopped alongside a black car parled along the fence just a few meters away from the camp’s main gate.

The dog’s action indicated to EODK9 personnel that it detected the presence of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) inside the vehicle.

Two more bomb-sniffing dogs were brought to check the car and they exhibited the same behavior, prompting the unit to coordinate with the Virac police station and the Operations Branch of the Catanduanes police.

As nobody knew who owned the vehicle, the police decided to isolate the car by cordoning the area and rerouting the traffic leading to and from the camp premises and nearby compounds.

Also called in for assistance were teams from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer (PDRRMO).

After the locating the owners of the vehicle, identified as couple Eleanor Manlangit and Epifanio Manlangit of San Isidro Village, the police sought permission to inspect the car’s interior.

The EODK9 team found no improvised explosive inside the car but there were items in the trunk that contained a chemical used in making IEDs.

PCMS Teope, the assistant team leader of the Catanduanes Bomb Squad, told local media that the car had plastic containers with automatic transmission fluid, coolant, spray paint, used engine oil and gasoline that had soaked into the carpet as well as brake fluid that contains nitroglycerine, which is one of the main components of improvised explosives.

He conveyed to the public that there was no reason to be alarmed and sought their understanding of the inconvenience that came about due to the incident.

Teope said what they did was part of their implementation of safety and security procedures to ensure the wellbeing of the people.

He asked car owners to avoid parking along the perimeter fence of Camp Camacho as it is prohibited under the heightened security measures being implemented.

It is the second time in the past three years that part of the highway linking Gogon and San Isidro Village was cordoned off due to a suspected IED.

Sometime in 2019, someone reported to the Virac police the suspicious presence of a bag along a private fence about 200 meters from the police camp.

Authorities diverted traffic from the route and closed off the highway but after several hours, the bomb squad managed to open the bag, which turned out to contain trash.

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