9 hurt in landmine blast near NGCP tower in Lanao del Sur

Seven soldiers and two workers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) were hurt following a landmine explosion in Lanao del Sur on Tuesday, September 28.

The explosion happened while an NGCP team, secured by soldiers, was working on one of the 138-kV transmission towers in Buadiposo Buntong town in Lanao del Sur.

Brigadier General Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Marawi City-based 103rd Infantry Brigade, said two helicopters from the Philippine Air Force base in Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro, were sent to airlift the wounded soldiers and linemen.

Cuerpo said a third helicopter from the NGCP was also on the way to the area where the explosion happened.

Cuerpo said the transmission tower was not bombed, and that the explosive was planted in the area.

“Usually, the bomb is attached to the tower and exploded to topple it down. This is different. The bomb was planted to injure people,” he said.

Cuerpo said the NGCP crew, escorted by Army soldiers, walked for two days to the hinterland area just to reach the 138-kV transmission tower.

“It was just for a regular checkup of the tower and the two linemen were accompanied by the soldiers for their security,” Cuerpo said.

The 138-kV transmission tower connects the Agus 1 Hydroelectric Plant to a relay station in Kibawe, Bukidnon, which allows the National Power Corporation and the NGCP to provide power to southern Mindanao.

Cuerpo said initial reports showed that one of the soldiers stepped on a pressure-activated landmine planted near the base of the transmission tower.

The military, he said, would investigate and identify who was responsible for the landmine explosion.

In a statement released by Beth Ladaga, NGCP corporate communications officer for northern Mindanao, the company said the explosion took place in a forested area in Buadiposo Buntong, Lanao del Sur, at around 7 am, and the seven soldiers and the two linemen were brought to a hospital. 

The NGCP said it sent the crew there because two of its lines tripped off on September 22 and September 23. 

“NGCP is fully cooperating with the local government unit and law enforcement agencies conducting the investigation,” NGCP said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack has claimed responsibility for it, but the Dawlah Islamiya-Maute terror group is known to operate in the area and has a history of bombing NGCP’s transmission towers.

In December 2015, a group of ABS-CBN journalists was attacked by motorcycle-riding Maute gunmen while doing a news story about an NGCP transmission tower in Lanao del Sur that was toppled down by a bomb.

Communist rebels are also known to operate in the area, according to the military.

NGCP said the incident only served to increase the burden of the public which suffers whenever power interruptions take place as a result of sabotage. 

“Any attempt to hinder line clearing activities is a violation of the provisions under Republic Act 11361 or the Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act, and is punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment or fines up to P200,000, or both,” NGCP warned in its statement.   

NGCP also appealed to government officials, community leaders, and concerned citizens to help identify the perpetrators. – Rappler.com

Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship