Press Release
February 26, 2009


Senate Minority Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today proposed takeover of the fire service by the local government units (LGUs) and the dismantling of the government-sponsored national firefighting organization.

Pimentel said the existence of the national firemen's association is ridiculous because there no such thing as fire or conflagration engulfing the whole country.

"Fire is not national, not in this country. I have yet to see a national conflagration in real, not allegorical, terms," the legislator from Mindanao said.

"National conflagration takes the form of abuse of power, corruption, human rights violations, or some such aberrations in government. But not in the form of fire that burns physically and which firemen can put away."

Recently, there was a conflagration that burned down hundreds of houses in the State of Victoria in Australia. And years back, there was also a huge forest fire in Borneo and Sumatra, Indonesia.

Yet, Pimentel said neither Australia nor Indonesia deemed it necessary to organize a national government fire fighting corps.

In the Philippines, he said the firemen and women have by mistake been allowed to acquire national status.

As the principal author of the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160), Pimentel admitted that he and other lawmakers forgot to include the Bureau of Fire Protection (national organization) among the agencies and functions to be devolved to the LGUs.

He pointed out that before the imposition of martial law in 1972, firefighting was a local concern and there was no such thing as a national government firefighting organization.

Pimentel said the present firemen's organization came about as part of the plan of then President Ferdinand Marcos to control as much as possible all levers of power.

He said this explains why the police, which was then a purely civilian and local government jurisdiction, found itself attached to the military and nationalized.

"It was a grand time, especially for those who were given military ranks such as generals, colonels, majors, etc. to command the rank and file in fire organizations and jail personnel in the local government throughout the country," Pimentel said.

"Also they had stars on their shoulders or some such trappings of power. And the salaries that went with the military ranks they strutted around with."

Saying it is time the error is corrected, Pimentel asked the national leaders to consider dismantling the national government-sponsored fire association and give back the firefighting function to local governments where it belongs.

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