• ‘Ill-equipped’ Fire bureau can’t stop tragedy

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    The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) took nine hours to put out the fire in Resorts World Manila (RWM) that suffocated 37 people for lack of equipment, an official said on Wednesday.

    Director Bobby Baruelo of the BFP made the admission when asked by Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list why the BFP was only able to put the fire under control at 9:56 a.m. when the fire started around 12:30 a.m.
    Baruelo said the BFP was not able to enter areas that were on fire because of thick smoke and that the bureau concentrated on stopping the blaze that had reached the escalators.

    “The fire started shortly after 12 midnight. Can you exactly tell us what did you do all the while until 9:56 a.m. the next day? Did you just put out the fire in the escalators for nine hours? The smoke was so thick? Don’t you have equipment to deal with that?” Roque said.

    “We have equipment, your honor, but they were not sufficient. We have self-contained breathing apparatuses, pero talaga pong kulang [but they were really not enough].”

    Resorts World Manila was attacked by a lone gunman identified as gambling addict Jessie Carlos last June 2.
    Carlos, who had been banned in casinos by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) in March this year, stormed the entertainment and casino complex heavily armed and firing at LED screens and tables, which caused the fire, eventually suffocating employees and guests.

    RWM President Kingston Sian disclosed during the hearing that the Philippine National Police recovered a bag of casino chips from Carlos worth P113 million and a second bag of casino chips worth P52 million was also recovered later.

    Some P300 million in casino chips are missing, he said.

    Sian assured the public that the RWM tragedy won’t happen again.

    David Chua Ming Huat, chairman of the board of Traveller’s Hotel Group Inc., which owns RWM, made a statement during resumption of the congressional inquiry after missing the first two hearings.

    “Allow me to express our deepest sympathies to the families of those who perished and were injured. I would like to assure you that the safety and security are key priorities of Resorts World Manila, an international brand owned by global conglomerates and benchmarked against international standards,” Chua, who is based in Hong Kong, told lawmakers.

    “As such, we will never compromise safety and security because it may impact on our stakeholders,” Chua said.
    He expressed willingness to resume RWM’s operations and appealed to lawmakers to consider the complex’s contribution to the Philippines such as the $1.3 billion for RWM; $1.1 billion for Resorts World Westside City; 1,934 hotel rooms; 1,620 hotel rooms still in the pipeline; the Marriott Grand Ballroom, the largest in the country, which Chua said has boosted the country’s position as a global destination for meetings, conferences and other events; P40 billion in license fees and other taxes; 25,000 direct and indirect jobs and 6,000 staff since 2008; and P1-billion investment for constructing school buildings, computer laboratories and barracks for the Philippine Military Academy cadets through the RWM Foundation.

    “This [RWM incident] is a tragic wake-up call not just for us. We hope that through the assistance of Congress and other government agencies, we can start the painful and difficult task of rebuilding as it is also our task to take care of our 6,000 personnel,” Chua said.

    Based on an account of RWM Chief of Security Armeen Gomez, the RWM is not equipped to deal with simultaneous emergencies.

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