BFP defends defective fire trucks: ‘They come with warranty’

Rambo Talabong
BFP defends defective fire trucks: ‘They come with warranty’
The Bureau of Fire Protection spokesperson says that, since the bureau is underequipped, it deems it better to buy more fire trucks of inferior quality

MANILA, Philippines – The fire trucks may be defective, but they can be repaired for free.

This is how Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) spokesperson Ian Manalo defends the agency’s deal with Kolonwel Trading, from which it procured 469 fire trucks, of which 169 are found to be defective.

Ibinabato namin sa Kolonwel kasi naka-warranty kami diyan eh,” Manalo told Rappler in a phone interview. “Hindi naman papayag ang Bureau of Fire Protection na bibili ng fire trucks na walang warranty.”

(We call out Kolonwel on the issues because the fire trucks come with warranty. The BFO will not buy fire trucks without warranty.)

According to Manalo, the warranty lasts for two years and it covers free repairs. 

He said that while the fire trucks really have defects, some may have been damaged because of “wear and tear.” They have been stationed in the provinces “where the roads are not as smooth as here in the metro.”

The Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the purchase of the fire trucks, finding the deal questionable given that, during the time of bidding for the P2.5-billion project, Kolonwel’s assets only amounted to P1.6 million.

The small capital could have explained the delivery of inferior fire trucks, COA indicated.

Ready to cooperate

Manalo denied there might have been corruption during the bidding.

Dumaan ‘yan sa due process, madadaya ba namin ‘yung ang daming nanunuod, ang daming kalaban, at open to the public?” Manalo said. (The deal went through due process. Could we have rigged it if other bidders were there and it was open to the public?)

He said if ever there is anyone at fault, it would be the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for clearing Kolonwel to bid.

“It’s not for us to check if they have money or not. If they got permission from the SEC to participate in the bidding, that’s what we look at,” Manalo said in Filipino.

“An investigation has yet to be conducted. It’s still [just an audit] report. If there will be an investigation where someone has to face consequences, they will face consequences. We are open to help there,” he said.

Less budget?

Manalo also defended the BFP for choosing to procure Chinese fire trucks over the heavily capable and expensive Rosenbauer fire trucks from Austria.

According to Manalo, the nature of both deals are different.

The deal with Austria, he said, was entered upon by the national government of the Philippines, agreeing that the Philippines may pay for a period of 20 years.

Their deal with Kolonwel was a purchase that they did on their own with the money the bureau saved from issuing fire safety permits. They needed to pay immediately, he said.

“Rosenbauers are expensive. We couldn’t buy them in cash, that’s why we bought the [Chinese fire trucks],” Manalo said.

This is not the first time that the BFP is criticized for a fire truck deal. 

The purchase of the Rosenbauer fire trucks by the previous administration and in 2016 under the Duterte administration earned disapproval for being too extravagant. Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno was sacked for honoring the deal entered into by the past administration. The Duterte government later honored the contract.

BFP’s Manalo said that, since the bureau was underequipped, it deemed it better to buy more fire trucks of inferior quality than buy few high-quality fire trucks.

Bumili kaming mura magagalit, bumili kami ng mahal, magagalit pa rin. Ano’ng gusto ‘nyong gawin namin?…. Meron ka talagang makikitang depekto pero ginagawan na ng paraan,” Manalo said.

(We buy cheap [fire trucks], people get angry. We buy expensive [fire trucks], people still get angry. What do you want us to do?…. You are bound to discover defects, but we find ways to fix them.) –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.