(Photo courtesy of BFP Region 8)

MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is looking into putting up more firefighting resources in densely populated areas with the help of local government units (LGUs) and the private sector.

Speaking during his first command visit to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) headquarters on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said this is among the strategies to improve the country's firefighting response.

"Tingnan natin ito, probably ano ang maganda, damihan natin ng maliliit na fire station. Makipag-coordinate tayo sa LGU na baka puwede tulungan tayo mag-procure sila ng mga maliliit na fire trucks. I-involve natin ang mga private (companies) dito. Magkaroon tayo ng maraming fire hydrant lalo na sa mga areas na high in density (Let's look at the situation and what good practices must be done. We can build more small fire stations. Let's coordinate with LGUs, maybe they can help us procure small fire trucks. Let's also involve private companies here. Let's have more fire hydrants especially in high density areas)," Abalos said.

The DILG chief made the remark as he admitted the lack of firefighting resources where in Metro Manila alone, there are only 200 fire trucks in the region that has a population of around 14 million.

"Dapat diyan i-strategize mo kung saan ilalagay para mabilis tayo (We should strategize as to where these will put up so we can have faster response). Remember the response time should be, if I am not mistaken, for every kilometer, it should be seven minutes, that is the standard. Right now with the traffic in Metro (Manila), we are doing about 2.5 kilometers per seven minutes. So, kailangan mag-adjust tayo (we need to adjust)," he added.

Abalos, meanwhile, assured that the BFP's modernization program remains on track despite budgetary constraints as the bulk of government funds are allotted to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response efforts.

"Yung sa budget, expected nga dahil galing ng tayo sa pandemya, talagang medyo mababa nang konti ito dahil of course ang focus ng ating gobyerno sa ngayon ay talagang nasa ekonomiya at ibang mga bagay. Anyway, whatever resources talagang pagkakasyahin natin (As for the budget, we expect it to be low because we are still recovering from the pandemic and of course, the government's focus is on the economy and other concerns. Anyway, we will make do with the resources that we have)," he said.

In September 2021, former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11589 or the BFP Modernization Act, kicking off a 10-year modernization period that is expected to transform the BFP into a modern and world-class institution.

RA 11589 mandates the BFP to develop and implement a fire protection modernization program that includes the acquisition of modern fire equipment, the expansion of the BFP's manpower, and the provision of specialized training for firefighters, among others.

The BFP shall also be mandated to conduct monthly fire prevention campaigns and information drives in every LGU. (PNA)