Undermanned OBO may have contributed to fire occurrences
Kristine B. Quintas/FPL (The Freeman) - March 12, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Bureau of Fire Protection reported that 60-percent of the fire incidents in Cebu City are caused by electrical misuse and illegal wire tapping, but the failure of the Office of the Building Officials to effectively carry out its mandate may have also contributed to these fire occurrences.

Many establishments, especially dormitories, apartments and boarding houses, are sprouting in the city but the OBO failed to regular inspect them if they are compliant with the provisions of the Fire Code of the Philippines. Architect Danilo Lim of OBO yesterday admitted during a public hearing conducted by the City Council that they failed to conduct regular inspections for lack of personnel and transportation.

He said OBO only has one team, with two inspectors and a driver, to conduct the inspection in the entire city. Lim, however, said that an inspection is conducted prior to the submission of the building plan before the necessary permits are issued.

 Republic Act 9514 or the Fire Code of the Philippines mandates to “conduct an inspection of every building or structure within his area of responsibility at least once a year and every time the owner, administrator or occupant shall renew his/her business permit or permit to operate.”

The law also provides that no occupancy permit, business permit or permit to operate shall be issued without securing a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate from the chief of the BFP, or his/her duly authorized representative.

The City Council through Councilor Alvin Dizon hosted a public hearing yesterday on the compliance of the establishments in the city with the fire safety requirements.

The public hearing was prompted by the February 3 incident in Barangay Sambag 2 where establishments near colleges and universities were destroyed by fire. The fire gutted a three-storey apartment building, leaving an estimated P150,000 structural damage. A boarder was reported to have jumped off the fourth floor since there was no fire exit.

The public hearing was also in line with the BFP’s observance of the Fire Prevention Month.

Dizon lamented that Cebu as a “highly urbanized city” has only two inspectors to check all the establishments which he said is impossible to fulfill with the heavy workload.  “Very ironic that a city like ours, a very urbanized city next to Manila, has only two inspectors,” he said.

“It is the policy of the state to ensure public safety and promote economic development and prevention and suppression of all kinds of destructive fires…We need to initiate mechanism to check the compliance of the laws. The loss of lives sand properties cause by fire and the trauma to the victims are very significant,” Dizon added.

Lim said there is already a plan to have a plantilla position for additional inspectors, however, it is still subject to a supplemental budget this year.

Councilor Margarita Osmeña said if OBO will depend on the SB, the plan to augment personnel might not be achieved soon.

“If you will wait for supplemental budget to be able to accomplish it may be a long time. It is critical and imperative that you can’t do what you can do,” she said.

Osmeña advised OBO to ask the assistance of the Human Resource Development Office to determine certain departments that are “overstaff” to help OBO undertake the required inspection.

Engineer Erwin Salvador, president of Institute of the Integrated Electrical Engineers of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter, said they will help the city in conducting building inspection.

He said the inspection should be done by electrical engineers and registered master electricians to check if there are pilferage, illegal tapping, and overloading of electric wire, among others.

“Inspection of establishments is very important to deter fire incidents but it needs sufficient manpower,” he said, adding that there is also a need to educate the public on the proper usage of electricity.

Councilor Philip Zafra, president of the Association of Barangay Councils, also said they are willing to assist OBO by providing transportation during inspection. He said they would help in coming up with an action plan on how to undertake inspection.

“We could help OBO because we know too well those establishments operating without necessary permits. Let’s start the move right now to free us from any fire incidents in the future and to ensure the safety of our constituents and students,” he said. — (FREEMAN)

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