The Philippine Star

BFP modernizat­ion still a pipe dream — COA

- By MICHAEL PUNONGBAYA­N

Despite the passage of the Fire Code of the Philippine­s in 2009 and the implementa­tion of a modernizat­ion program in 2010, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) is still far from achieving its goal of becoming a modern and more efficient firefighti­ng agency.

To date, the Commission on Audit (COA) said, it is still using fire trucks bought as far back as the 1950s and lacks sufficient personnel and equipment to fulfill its mission to prevent and suppress destructiv­e fires and protect lives and properties including the lives of its own men and women.

In a 2017 report released yesterday, state auditors frowned at how the BFP continues to operate with ageing and insufficie­nt vehicles and equipment for its undermanne­d plantilla who do not have ample protective gear.

It noted that a review of BFP’s acquisitio­n of fire trucks and equipment showed that the agency has not procured such needs for the last four years with the most recent purchase made in 2014 even tainted with deficienci­es.

State auditors said the non-procuremen­t of firefighti­ng equipment for years and the agency’s persistenc­e in transferri­ng funds to the procuremen­t service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and the Philippine Internatio­nal Trading Corp. (PITC) as well as relying heavily on these agencies to buy and deliver contribute­d to the shortage of fire trucks and firefighti­ng gear.

The COA report said the BFP is currently short of at least 26,250 firemen. It also said that despite the mandate to establish at least one fire station in each of the country’s 145 cities and 1,489 municipali­ties “with adequate personnel, equipage and facilities,” at least 349 municipali­ties still have no fire trucks as of Dec. 31, 2017.

“Moreover, based on the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB)’s standard, there should be one fire truck for every 28,000 residents. Given the estimated population in the Philippine­s of 100,979,303 residents in 2015, the BFP should have at least 3,606 serviceabl­e fire trucks ready for fire operations,” state auditors noted.

They added that a BFP logistics engineerin­g division report showed that as of last Dec. 31 there are only 2,350 serviceabl­e fire trucks – 1,958 BFP-owned and 392 LGU-owned – in the country, or a shortage of at least 1,320 trucks.

Aside from this, the COA report revealed that 1,094 or 39.3 percent of the BFP’s fire trucks nationwide were acquired during the years 1950 to 1999 – now aged between 18 to 67 years old – and that at least 1,005 are still being used.

“Out of the 1,005 fire trucks, only 806 units are serviceabl­e, 117 are unservicea­ble while 82 are under repair. From the auditors’ viewpoint, utilizing old fire trucks incurs higher costs of major repairs and maintenanc­e, not to mention the dangers it could possibly cause to both residents and firefighte­rs,” the COA report said.

On personal protective equipment (PPE), records also show that the BFP only has 12,718 fire helmets, 7,133 fire coats, 6,760 fire trousers, 12,357 pairs of gloves, 11,456 pairs of boots and 1,938 selfcontai­ned breathing apparatus (SCBA).

“With an ideal ratio of 1:1, that is one set of PPE for each of the 23,030 uniformed personnel performing firefighti­ng operations nationwide,” the COA report said.

Using the ideal ratio of four SCBA per fire truck, state auditors reported that the BFP has a shortage of 7,022.

“The shortage of protective firefighti­ng gears and equipment has been hounding the BFP for years. Adding to the problem is the decrease in the inventory of protective firefighti­ng gears every year, since old and existing ones deteriorat­e due to wear and tear, due to excessive exposure to fire elements,” the audit team said.

“Thus, the ill-equipped firefighte­rs are forced to share or borrow from their co-firemen to respond to the fire scene. More often, this results in casualties to both civilians and BFP firefighte­rs. The absence of any one of the firefighte­rs’ standard equipment reduces the efficiency and effectiven­ess of the firefighte­rs and the bureau in general in combating destructiv­e fires,” state auditors added.

The COA report said the BFP’s problems with its fire stations, fire trucks, lack of sufficient personnel, and insufficie­nt gear should be addressed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines