BFP slammed for causing delay in LRT2 fire investigation

Loreben Tuquero

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BFP slammed for causing delay in LRT2 fire investigation
In the middle of the House hearing, the BFP relays confirmation that it will fast-track and release its investigation report on October 10

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) came under fire on Wednesday, October 9, for not being able to release any findings on the the fire that caused damage to Light Rail Transit line 2 (LRT2) rectifiers, 6 days after the incident happened on October 3. 

The BFP has also barred the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) from taking part in the investigation, making them unable to identify parts needed for procurement.

The LRT2 has been confined to limited operations, estimated to last 9 months, following the damage sustained by the two rectifier substations.

During a House committee on transportation emergency meeting regarding the incident, on Wednesday, Samar 1st District Representative Edgar Sarmiento, who chairs the committee, expressed frustration over how there had been no findings yet on the cause of fire almost a week after the incident. (WATCH: LIVE: House hearing on LRT2 Santolan station incident)

LRT2 management representatives said the BFP officials had not allowed them to inspect or even touch anything in the affected rectifier substations because they were supposedly still investigating if ransom was the cause of the fire. 

After a while, Deputy Majority Leader and Cavite 7th District Representative Jesus Crispin Remulla assessed the situation based on information provided by LRT2 officials: arson was a remote possibility, the comprehensive insurance would shoulder rehabilitation cost regardless of the cause of fire, and the LRTA was ready to bid out contracts for replacement parts.

This prompted Remulla to ask, what’s taking the BFP so long to wrap up its investigation? “The deadline was yesterday,” he said, because the fire agency shouldn’t be allowed to take hostage the 200,000 commuters affected by the shutdown of the 3 stations. 

No fire bureau official was present at the hearing. 

After the House panel repeatedly urged the BFP – through Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco Densing – to allow the LRTA into the investigation, the  BFP relayed the message that it would release the investigation report on Thursday, October 10.

No identified parts yet

LRTA spokesperson Hernando Cabrera revealed that of the 189 parts of the rectifier substation, only 11 were not in the LRTA’s stock. However, they have yet to assess the damage to the rectifiers and determine if they have the parts needed, because the BFP has not allowed them to conduct investigation.

Cabrera said their tapped specialists, who came from Britain, were not permitted to touch anything in the affected area, but were only allowed to walk through it and point out the affected parts.

He explained that the damaged parts couldn’t be determined visually, since the parts are contained in an explosion-proof housing. They would have to open the casing, but they have not been permitted by the BFP to do so.

Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon pointed out that the BFP may not have the technical knowledge on railways to be fully capable of investigating the incident by themselves.

‘Sitting on the investigation’ 

The LRTA has ruled out arson as the cause of the fire, because CCTV cameras showed that nobody was present when the rectifiers caught fire. 

LRTA engineer Federico Canar said that two causes are being considered as to the cause of the fire: equipment failure and lighting. 

To add, LRTA Deputy Administrator for Operations and Engineering Paul Chua said there was a confirmed lightning strike on October 2, a day before the incident. This resulted to a shutdown of operations for a few minutes. 

“This fire leads us to the conclusion that inter-office operability in times of crisis leaves much to be desired,” Remulla said. He then instructed Densing to “whip the BFP into shape.” –

Read other stories from the October 9 House hearing:

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Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.