Senate to revisit fire safety law

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Following the release of the results of a probe on the Valenzuela City factory fire that killed 77 people last month, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today assured that the Senate will prioritize the review of the country’s fire safety laws, in order to prevent such deadly incidents from being repeated.

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Drilon said that the Valenzuela fire incident did not only highlight the limitations of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), it also revealed the common lapses continuously being committed by local government units, which undermine building safety and fire prevention efforts.

“In this case, the BFP is claiming that there is no fire inspection certification issued by the BFP to Kentex Manufacturing Corp. On the other hand, the local government of Valenzuela is complaining that there is no available inspector from the BFP and that it could not let the applications for business permits by factories be left unattended for long,” said Drilon in a radio interview.

“It is evident that there were a lot of errors in the process, and that is why we will give focus in the Senate to proposals to review the National Building and Fire Codes and the modernization of the Bureau of Fire Protection,” Drilon stressed.

“The process of issuing safety inspection certifications must be reviewed and improved, to prevent this sort of tragedy from ever happening again,” he added.

To ensure the smooth implementation of the fire safety laws, Drilon said there is a need to clarify the responsibilities of the BFP and LGUs with regard to ensuring that the buildings are up to standard with fire safety and evacuation plan.

Drilon pointed to various measures filed in Senate which seek to amend the National Building Code and the Fire Code of the Philippines, and modernize the BFP. For instance, Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2235 seeks to amend the National Building Code and the Local Government Code of 1991. It also seeks to create a separate Office of the Municipal/City/Provincial Building Official which will be tasked to enforce the provisions of the National Building Code.

The Senate will also legislate laws that will impose stiffer penalties against violators of fire safety laws, Drilon said.

Also, there are at least three measures aiming at modernizing the BFP. These are SBN 1504, 1542 and SBN 2359.

Among the proposals under the proposed BFP modernization law are the creation of fire stations and emergency medical services in all LGUs, purchase of fire trucks, upgrade of trauma units in public hospitals, and training of fire personnel.

“We acknowledge the dedication of our BFP personnel who always risk their lives to save others. Imagine if they can save millions of lives with little support from the government, how much more if we capacitate them and upgrade their equipment,” said Drilon.

Drilon said the proposed measures will also address the manpower issue in the BFP so that strict monitoring of establishments will be implemented.

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