Romualdez couple bill for modernized BFP approved

Martin Romualdez & Yedda Marie K. Romualdez
Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and her husband, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez welcomed the passage of the consolidated measure, underscoring the need to provide more fire trucks, fire stations and modernized firefighting equipment to majority of towns in the countryside.

THE House committees on public order and safety and on appropriations have approved a consolidated bill, including the proposed law of Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and her husband, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez seeking to modernize the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

The Romualdez couple welcomed the passage of the consolidated measure, underscoring the need to provide more fire trucks, fire stations and modernized firefighting equipment to majority of towns in the countryside.

“The approval of the consolidated measure will effectively improve the institutional capacity of the Bureau of Fire Protection to ensure public safety,” the Romualdez couple said.

“Many towns in the countryside have been using old and dilapidated trucks,” the Romualdezes said as they lamented that 26 out of 143 local government units (LGUs) in Eastern Visayas or Region 8 do not have fire trucks or fire stations.

Masbate Rep. Narciso Bravo Jr., chairman of the House committee on public order and safety, and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, who chairs the House committee on appropriations, forwarded to the powerful House committee on rules led by Majority Leader Romualdez for approval Committee Report No. 421 containing House Bill 7406 or
the proposed "BFP Modernization Act,” which is one of the priority measures mentioned by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte in his State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last July 27.

“The objective of the bill is to ensure public safety through the prevention and suppression of all kinds of destructive fires with the active support of the community,” said Bravo.

“Let’s us all work together to ensure public safety by modernizing our BFP,” said Yap for his part.

Majority Leader Romualdez assured the public that the House of Representatives will find ways to help the BFP by looking at for more funds “to embark on modernizing the equipment of fire fighters aimed at preventing the loss of lives and properties.”

“Our malasakit for BFP is always there to ensure public safety,” said Martin Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and the Lakas-Christin Muslim Democrats (CMD).

Rep. Yedda Romualdez, chairperson of the House committee on the welfare of children, recognized the heroism of firefighters and volunteers in the country whose “malasakit” (compassion) has been saving lives, homes, and properties from destructive fires.

“Their act of bravery as firefighters is a greatest accomplishment already because they are involved in a very noble calling and indeed, they are very selfless people who put their lives on line. We should not forget them and we should always recognize and celebrate their heroism,” said Rep. Yedda Romualdez, former chairperson of the House committee on accounts during the previous 17th Congress.

She stressed that firefighters’ “unreliable safety equipment” should also be improved.

“The lives of our firefighters and fire victims are also in great danger if our firefighting equipment is not reliable,” she added. “For us to help prevent fire, we should always adhere to the promotion of public safety and follow safety measures.”

Rep. Yedda Romualdez also called for continued inspection of residential homes and buildings for possible fire hazards.

The lady House leader extolled the spirit of volunteerism of the firefighting community, adding this should snowball the support to their mission in the name of public safety.

“We commend our firefighters and volunteers whose proudest moments are to save lives, homes and properties. They are always there, night and day, for us and not giving up the battle despite physical limitations and lack of support for their welfare,” she stressed.

Under HB 7406, the BFP shall perform the following additional functions:-prevent and suppress all destructive fires in all building, houses and other structures, and economic zones including agro-industrial economic zones, free ports and special economic zones, information technology (IT) parks or centers, manufacturing economic zones, medical tourism parks or centers, tourism economic zones, and other similar entities; establish and maintain regional arson laboratories and research and testing facilities with complete equipment; -respond to disasters, whether natural or human-induced and other emergencies, including rescue, emergency medical services, hazardous materials (HAZMAT), chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) materials, and other emergencies; conduct in coordination with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) monthly fire prevention campaigns and information drive in all local government units (LGUs), particularly in informal settler areas and economically depressed areas; and issue a fire safety evaluation clearance as a prerequisite for the issuance of a building permit after evaluation and ensuring that the required plans and specifications of the building and other pertinent documents submitted by building owners are compliant with the Fire Code and other applicable codes and standards.

The joint panel’s HB 7406 is a consolidation of 10 bills where the components of the Fire Protection Modernization Program shall be as follows: Fire Protection Service, force destruction and organizational development, capability material and technology development, specialized services development, and human resource development.

The BFP, under the proposed law, will recommend and submit to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), through the DILG, the revised organizational structure and staffing patter of its officers and personnel within 90 days from the promulgation of the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act.

According to the measure, the revised organizational structures shall include all the offices of the BFP, specifically the National Headquarters, the regional, provincial, district, city, and municipal fire stations, the Fire Training Service and the BFP Central and Regional Hospitals, the measure provides.

The measure authorizes the DILG Secretary, upon approval of the President and under the provisions of existing laws and regulations, including those of the Commission on Audit and Section 3 of the Executive Order No. 91 series of 2019, and under such terms and conditions favorable to the government, to enter into multi-year contracts or other contractual agreements with local or foreign supplier or contractors in the implementation of the proposed Act.

The bill provides that the amount needed for the initial implementation of the proposed Act shall be charged against the current year’s appropriations of the BFP, such as sums as may be necessary for the continued implementation shall thereafter be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

The proposed Fire Protection Modernization Program shall be implemented over a period of time three years, it said.

The BFP, through the DLG Secretary, is mandated to submit to the Office of the President and to Congress, an annual report containing the process and status of the implementation of the Fire Protection Modernization Program, the measure provides.

It added that the DILG is mandated to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act, in coordination with the BFP, the Department of Finance (DOF), and the DBM.