60 WW2 bombs recovered on UP Diliman campus since 2008, many more could remain

Beware of bombs, including those planted over 60 years ago. Amid the scare created by the Boston Marathon bombing, the Quezon City Police District reminded the public to be vigilant not just against unaccompanied bags that could explode, but also vintage ordinance that date back to World War II. In the University of the Philippines' Diliman campus alone, more than 60 vintage bombs have been recovered since June 2008, mostly from the digging operations of contractors in the area, according to QCPD's Explosives Ordnance Division. At the time, Japanese forces occupied two buildings intended for the College of Liberal Arts and the Colleges of Law and Business Administration in the university's newly acquired expansion site in Diliman. The Japanese were bombarded by US forces from the air and from artillery cannons on the ground. Many of the bombs failed to explode and could still be scattered around the campus, said QCPD-EOD's SP03 Christopher Marquez. Among those recovered were 63 25-pound drop bombs, two 155-mm projectiles, a 60-mm mortar and a frag hand grenade. The latest recorded discovery was a 25-pounder drop bomb, found just last February 28. Despite their age, the buried explosives remain a threat, as they may go off once they make contact with heavy equipment common at construction sites like a backhoe, he added. But no operation has been organized to detect and clear the campus of the vintage bombs, according to authorities. "Kinakailangan kasi ng equipment para ma-detect ang mga 'yan," said Marquez. "Wala tayo niyan." University campus architect Gerard Rey Lico also admitted that though they practice caution, no clearing operation has been set up by the university to eliminate the bombs. 'Mano-mano' In an interview aired on GMA News TV's News To Go Thursday, QCPD-EOD chief Insp. Noel Sublay said the vintage bombs remain dangerous, and that the heavy machinery used to dig foundations may detonate them. “Delikado iyon kasi kapag na-initiate iyon ng hard object, may posibilidad na sumabog siya,” he said. “Kapag tamaan ng backhoe o pala, pwede siyang sumabog.” Lico confirmed this, saying that it is part of their protocol to first use “mano-mano” before using a backhoe in digging operations during construction activities. “Mano-mano muna tapos kung may ma-detect, we will cordone the area, then hire a consultant with a metal detector. Kapag may ma-detect, we will inform the police,” he said. Lico said they remain cautious during construction activities. “We are aware [of the bombs]; dating military garrison kasi 'yung lugar,” he explained. “Lahat ng construction natin ngayon ay nagsisimula sa mano-mano, hindi pwedeng agad-agad na gumamit ng backhoe.” QCPD-EOD's Marquez said contractors in Diliman and nearby areas are advised not to use heavy machinery to dig foundations, which may detonate the bombs. “Alam na nila [contractors] iyon,” he said. “Nakikipag-coordinate naman sila [the office of the UP Diliman architect] sa amin.” Sublay reminds the public to exercise caution in handling excavated objects that resemble vintage bombs and ammunition. “Nagrerekober kami ng vintage bombs sa mga junk shop, binibenta kasi bakal iyan e, binibenta iyan pero live pa, nilalagari ng mga junk shop, delikado iyon, may posibilidad siyang sumabog,” he said. The discovered bombs have already been detonated in Camp O'Donnell's Crow Valley Range in Capas, Tarlac, according to Marquez. — BM/HS, GMA News