A senior lawmaker on Wednesday said the recently signed Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Modernization Act will spur the creation of a trust fund to bankroll the 10-year modernization program of the BFP.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, in news a statement, said President Duterte’s recent signing into law of the BFP Modernization Act is an effective instrument to professionalize and boost the morale and efficiency of the agency tasked to save lives and property in times of fire and other calamities.
Under Republic Act (RA) 11589 or the BFP Modernization Act, the functions of the agency will be expanded to include responding to natural and man-made disasters and assisting in rescue and emergency medical services in cooperation with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the local government units (LGUs), Villafuerte said.
He added the law also provides that the BFP Modernization Trust Fund will include appropriations for BFP modernization, as well as 80 percent of the share of the BFP from all taxes, fees and fines collected under the Fire Code.
Other sources for the fund are proceeds from the disposal of excess and uneconomically repairable equipment and other movable assets of the BFP, supplemental assistance from the Congress from surpluses, loans, grants or donations, and the fund’s interest income, the lawmaker said.
He added the LGUs are also authorized under RA 11589 to use their respective share from all taxes, fees and fines collected under the Fire Code for the construction, repair, rehabilitation and/or operation and maintenance of local fire stations, and the procurement of protective gear and equipment for their firefighters, among other local BFP modernization initiatives.
“With the timely signing by President Duterte of this law, the BFP will hopefully be transformed from a decrepit agency into a world-class institution. More important, the law will help professionalize the ranks of the BFP and allow the agency to hire more personnel,” Villafuerte said.
“The law will enable the BFP to purchase enough protective gear and equipment for our firefighters who always risk their lives to save others,” he added.
Villafuerte noted that despite the passage of RA 9514, or the Fire Code of the Philippines” in 2008, the BFP has reported an increase in fire incidents in 2018 along with casualties of 200 people caught in fire accidents.
“The Fire Code of the Philippines was to be the principal law to help prevent and suppress destructive fires in the country. It also aimed for the professionalization of the fire service as a profession and encourage an increase of firefighters. However, as of 2017, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported the lack of less than half the ideal number of firefighters in the country,” he said.
Villafuerte also said the BFP is short of fire trucks—39 percent of which was acquired between 1950 and 1999—and “lacks self-contained breathing apparatus devices, a crucial equipment for rescuers.”
“Almost 400 municipalities in the country do not have their own firetrucks,” said Villafuerte, who had served as three-term Camarines Sur governor prior to his election to the House.