The officer commanding the police outpost near the Underground River in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, was relieved from his post after an explosion rocked the area on Monday.

Senior Supt. Abad Osit, Puerto Princesa City Police director, said he ordered the relief of Insp. Freddie Taliman shortly after the incident and replaced him with Insp. Llabe.

“Paalis na sana siya (Taliman) dun, kaya lang ‘yung kapalit lang niya ay nasa break pa so nag-extend siya… Pero ngayon dahil sa insidente, talagang inalis ko na siya at pinalitan ng temporary officer,” Osit said by phone.

Security was also beefed up after the explosion at the wharf in Sitio Sabang, Brgy. Kabayugan, with six more policemen sent to augment the 12-man unit there, Osit said.

Taliman’s relief and the additional security personnel came after investigators found that the blast was caused by explosives believed to be used for illegal fishing.

The explosion damaged a van at the parking area near the wharf, which serves as the “pick-up point” for tourists who want to visit the underground river, touted as one of the “New 7 Wonders of Nature.” No one was reported injured.

Traces of ammonium nitrate, shards of “long neck” glass bottles, and parts of a lighter were found in the explosion site, Osit said, citing findings of the Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team.

“Mayroon daw nakita ng taong nag-aabang ng boat para makatawid dun sa kanilang barangay, ngunit nang makakita ng nagro-roving na pulis ay iniwan ‘yung dalang sako na pinaglagyan nitong explosive ingredient,” Osit said.

The findings prompted investigators to suspect that the explosion was “accidental,” but Osit said they are still digging deeper into the incident.

“Itong explosion ay kino-consider namin na isang aksidente, heat yung nag-trigger dun sa explosion… accident pero ‘yung iba pa na mga possible motives nito pinag-aaralan pa, subject for investigation,” he said. (John Roson)

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