Press Release
June 19, 2015

NG owes LGUs P1B in shares from Fire Code fees

The national government owes "hundreds of millions" to local governments representing the latter's 20 percent share from Fire Code fees collected.

Sen. Ralph Recto said a Commission on Audit (COA) report pegged the unremitted amount at P723 million, for the period 2010 to 2013.

If the 2014 share of towns and cities is included, the outstanding obligation "will be about P1 billion," Recto said.

The senator said "current efforts by the national government to settle these payables must bear fruit soon as what will be plowed back will boost the local governments' fire prevention capabilities."

In its audit report on the Bureau of Fire Protection's (BFP) books for 2013, which is the latest, the COA said the 20 percent share of local government units (LGUs) amounting to P723.9 million "were not released to the concerned LGUs from 2010 to (2013)."

The COA blamed this on the absence of "guidelines on its implementation."

As a result, "most of the fire stations and fire trucks in the locality were not properly maintained and equipped," states the COA's audit observation.

While the problem has been festering for years, it was only in February this year that a Joint Circular by three departments - Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) - was issued to flesh out the fund release protocols.

"So hopefully the five-year wait of LGUs for their share from the Fire Code income will end soon," Recto said.

With one fire "breaking out somewhere in the country every 56 minutes," any move to bring "more resources to LGUs will ease their fire equipment backlog, a situation which has reached general alarm," Recto said.

The BFP said 40,696 fire incidents from 2010 to 2013 claimed 990 lives, injured 2,874, and destroyed P27.1 billion worth of property.

Under the Fire Code of the Philippines, or Republic Act 9514, 20 percent of Fire Code fees collected shall be given back to LGUs while 80 percent will be used by the BFP for the purchase of fire suppression equipment and facilities.

The fees are largely sourced from:

  •  One-tenth of 1 percent of the verified estimated value of buildings to be erected but not exceeding P50,000

  •  1/100th of 1 percent of the assessed value of buildings upon payment of real estate tax, except on structures used as single family dwellings

  •  2 percent of gross sales of companies selling firefighting equipment or devices, including hazard detection and warning systems

From these, about P1.1 billion is expected to be collected this year, Recto said.

However, as of December 31, 2013, some P3.6 billion in Fire Code collections remained unspent, according to the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing for 2015.

Recto said the BFP and local governments should be "firewalled from underspending."

"We should give local governments their due. If it's in the law, then we should comply with our obligations. If the BFP does not have the manpower to conduct fire inspections, then the LGU can help."

Recto said the national government should also "promptly, timely and correctly" spend its 80 percent share from Fire Code collections for the purchase of firetrucks, repair of fire stations, and firemen's protective gear.

For 2015, P800 million has been allotted for this purpose, an amount over and above the P 8.1 billion budget of the BFP for the year.

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