A fire allegedly triggered by faulty electrical wiring razed a warehouse of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) in Port Area, Manila on Thursday night, destroying hundreds of millions of pesos’ worth of confiscated and abandoned goods.
The blaze broke out at 9:06 p.m. in Warehuse 159, which is just some 200 meters away from the Port of Manila, where BoC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon holds office.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Some Customs officials, however, expressed doubt if the fire was really caused by faulty electrical wiring.
“I believe that it was intentional to cover up something,” said one official who requested anonymity, adding that the goods stored inside the warehouse were worth more than a billion pesos, judging from the amount and volume of various goods recently confiscated by the bureau from its various operations in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
The source explained that as a result of the blaze, there were no more goods to be audited, insinuating that some of the goods that were reported stored inside were not really there but were either sold or released to their original consignees in exchange for grease money.
According to PoM’s Auction and Cargo Disposal Division chief Oscar Villalba, initial inventory showed that among the articles damaged were non-serviceable vehicles, tires, counterfeit products such as slippers, bags, “ukay-ukay” clothes and fabrics.
Fire officials said the lack of fire hydrants within the area made it difficult for firefighters to control the situation as the fire reached the fifth alarm at 9:46 pm.
The Fifth alarm involves the district fire marshal of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in the operations in order to assess the situation and decide if the alarm should be further raised to Task Force level.
“Unfortunately, we reached the Fifth Alarm because there is no fire hydrant near the area. Firemen have to go inside the BoC to get water,” Enforcement and Security Service Acting Director Isabelo Tibayan 3rd said.
Tibayan added that highly combustible materials stored inside the warehouse caused the fire to spread widely, destroying the entire warehouse.
Chemicals that were also housed inside caused explosions.
The fire was declared under control at 11:45 p.m.