Senator Bato Dela Rosa is pushing to expand the powers and functions of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) considering the agency’s crucial role in saving lives and properties in times of fire and various disasters.
In his Senate Bill No. 1832 or the “Bureau of Fire Protection Modernization Act of 2020,” Dela Rosa pointed out the urgent need to expand BFP’s powers and functions which should include the agency’s authority to inspect structures within the Special Economic Zones for fire safety as well as to conduct necessary probe in the event of destructive fire.
The former chief of the Philippine National Police cited the incident of fire that hit a prominent hotel within an eco zone which claimed several lives.
The legislator reiterated that such loss of lives could have been averted if the BFP had conducted a fire safety inspection in the area.
“When it comes to investigation eh dapat Bureau of Fire [Protection] ang may hawak as far as arson investigation is concerned and inspection. I would like to cite an example – yung nangyari dun sa Resorts World Hotel wherein maraming namatay doon sa sunog,” the lawmaker said.
“Alam niyo lumabas doon sa hearing natin na kung sana ang nag-conduct ng inspection doon sa building na yun for the fire safety inspections was the Bureau of Fire [Protection], dapat alam nila yung floor plan ng Resorts World at alam nila kung saan hanapin at pwede nagtago yung mga namatay,” the senator explained.
The chair of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs added that such an incident, which took place on June 2, 2017 and killed 40 including the suspect, prompted him to push for increasing BFP’s powers which was included in his proposed measure modernizing the agency.
“Ang tsansa niyan hindi ka maging successful sa pag-rescue ng mga fire victims sa loob ng building at ikaw pa mismo mapapahamak dahil hindi mo alam ang layout ng building,” he noted.
“This function is very crucial because it is about life-saving and protection of lives.”
“Itong function na ito ay very crucial dahil ito ay life-saving and protection of lives. Minarapat na ng Bureau of Fire (Protection) na talagang mapunta sa kanila itong power na ito. Dahil pag may namatay, hindi naman sinisisi ang Eco Zone Authorities kung hindi ang Bureau of Fire (Protection) dahil hindi na rescue yung mga namatay doon sa hotel,” Dela Rosa stressed.
Section 9 of Republic Act 7916 or the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 provides that the Philippine Economic Zone Authority may provide and establish the ecozones’ internal security and firefighting forces.
However, Section 5 (h) RA 9514 Fire Code of the Philippines of 2008 states that the BFP may “inspect at reasonable time, any building, structure, installation or premises for dangerous or hazardous conditions or materials”.
Under the proposed BFP modernization measure, he also asked for additional manpower to achieve the ideal fireman to population ratio which will further ensure public safety.
“For the [BFP] personnel complement, we need 20,704 new personnel and the budget is around P9,292,203,000. The present personnel complement is 30,290 and there is 66 percent additional complement needed,” Dela Rosa explained.
“The ideal fireman to population ratio is 1:2000.”
“The basis for this is the ideal fireman to population ratio which is 1:2000, kaya nasabi natin na meron tayong shortage na 26,029 personnel. Iyan yung kulang natin, but ang nire-request natin ngayon is 20,704 lang muna para makumpleto ang ating fire department,” he added.
Asked by Senators Franklin Drilon and Dick Gordon if the additional 20,000 firemen proposal is not too many, hence, too expensive, Dela Rosa emphasized that it is necessary to fill in the lacking number of fire fighters due to the expanded powers of the bureau, aside from the ideal fireman to population ratio.