'Almost 400' PH towns have no fire trucks – DILG

MANILA, Philippines— Almost 400 municipalities nationwide do not have their own fire trucks, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Wednesday, June 28.

DILG Officer-in-Charge Catalino Cuy bared the figure in an interview on radio dzMM when he was asked about the controversial Rosenbauer fire trucks which were held up in Batangas City because of a petition before the Supreme Court.

"Nanghihinayang din po kami sa medyo nakapending na mga fire trucks na ito while well in fact, meron po tayong kulang na almost 400 municipalities pa na walang mga fire truck," Cuy said.

(We are sad that the [Rosenbauers] are still pending while there are 400 municipalities that don't have fire trucks.)

The 24 units in Batangas are part of the second batch of Rosenbauer fire trucks from Austria which are now the subject of a petition seeking its nullification by the Supreme Court.

“With the said firetrucks, these towns should now have been in a much better position to provide timely and efficient fire services to their constituents,” said Cuy.

Cuy added that some municipalities that do have firetrucks have to make do with models that are 30 years old.

He also said that the DILG is in active consultation with the Office of the Solicitor General which has advised the DILG to wait until the issue is resolved by the Court before proceeding with the firetrucks' distribution.

Why few trucks?

Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) spokesperson Ian Manalo said there were a total of 351 towns in the country without their own firetrucks.

He allayed fears that these towns were defenseless against fires, noting that the firetrucks have been placed in strategic locations.

The BFP official said that the 351 municipalities have neighboring towns that have fire trucks that can easily be dispatched to help since the distance between them is "not that far."

Manalo admitted that the number of firetrucks in the country was below the required one fire truck per local government unit required under Republic Act 6975 or the DILG Act of 1990, but he said that the BFP would rather put more fire trucks "where they are needed."

"We have 145 cities and 1,449 municipalities. The cities have fires from one to 5 times a day, while a lot of municipalities only have fires once or twice a year," Manalo said.

According to Manalo, the 145 cities have a total of 507 fire trucks, as they need them more. "Even with volunteer organizations assisting, our fire trucks are still not enough," he added.

According to Manalo, the Rosenbauer fire trucks, even if approved, would most likely be placed in cities or more developed towns which are more prone to fires. 

Old problem

The government's fire truck problem is not new.

According to BFP data  obtained by Rappler, the BFP's ideal number of fire trucks is 3,606, adhering to the standards set by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board.

As of April 2017, the BFP has 2,674 fire trucks, 932 units away from the ideal number.

The government has sought to to address the problem. The Aquino administration sealed a contract to purchase high-powered Rosenbauer fire trucks, which was implemented during the Duterte administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, criticized the deal and even used it as among the bases for his decision to sack Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno. Despite such objection, the DILG and even Malacañang had said that the government will implement the deal unless the High Court bars it. (READ: Palace: Austrian firetrucks deal will proceed)

The Commission on Audit had questioned the BFP's purchase of P2.577-billion firetrucks from a Chinese supplier in 2015, after auditors found 176 of the 469 China-made fire trucks defective, as well as some questionable aspects of the deal.

Manalo said that the BFP is ready to cooperate if the deal with the Chinese supplier would be investigated.

Until then, the BFP will focus on procuring more fire trucks, Manalo said. – Rappler.com


Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.