Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
A report by the Commission on Audit has revealed that at least 74 percent of the country’s 13,272 firefighters do not have complete firefighting gear. The audit report says that 9,881 of the firefighters do not have fire gloves; 9,777 do not have their own fire trousers to protect their legs from the flames and heat; and 8,236 do not have boots for their feet. Furthermore, 7,454 firemen do not have fire coats and 7,044 do not have fire helmets to protect their heads from the heat and falling debris.
Aside from personal protective equipment, the Bureau of Fire Protection only has 1,943 fire trucks for the entire country, 208 of which are not owned by the agency but by local government units. Of the 1,735 fire trucks the BFP actually owns, only 1,516 are serviceable because the rest are either undergoing repairs or have been declared irreparable.
The state auditors noted in their report that since its creation the BFP has been chronically short on firefighting equipment. The COA report rued that despite the availability of funds, problems in the bidding process have prevented the government from addressing the needs of firefighters for more personal protective equipment and fire trucks.
The COA noted that in many cases, bidding for equipment or fire trucks had already been held or even awarded but due to technicalities, complaints from losing bidders and other reasons, the much-needed equipment never made it to the firemen or fire stations. Because of the lack of political will and red tape, a large percentage of Filipino firefighters are putting their bodies in the same danger as the people and properties that they are trying to save.
The Department of Interior and Local Government has shown that it has the wherewithal and the political will to properly equip Filipino policemen when it managed to secure enough handguns for all the poorly-equipped policemen in the country. Perhaps it is time that it gave the Bureau of Fire Protection the same attention and give our firefighters a fighting chance when doing their jobs as well.*