Marawi still lacks fire truck while 6 fires hit city this year

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – Six fires have struck the Marawi City this year alone but residents could just watch structures gutting down because the war-torn “Islamic” community has no fire truck yet despite reported release in 2018 of P96-million national fund for fire prevention facilities, according to Philippine Muslim Today news sources.

The 6th fire incident happened last June 26, according to Aslani “Toti” Cabugatan Montila, chairperson of Siyap ko Pagtaw Inc. and concurrent spokesperson of Development Assistance Team, Independent Monitoring Group for the Marawi rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

Montila did not provide details on the specific location of the 6th conflagration and its damages or possible casualties, hinting only that the incident raised further alarm about the absence of fire trucks in the city.  

Last Feb. 18, a school building near the temporary shelter camp at barangay Sangonsongan for some of thousands of residents displaced in the infamous May 23, 2017 Marawi siege was gutted down fully while responding residents could just the flame helplessly, Montila said.

Fire Officer 2 Daud M. Macabantog, fire and arson investigator of the Marawi City Fire Station, said the Sagonsongan blaze preceded four fire incidents in the Sarimanok, Maxine, Basak Malutlut and Kilala areas in the city earlier this year.

Macabantog, alias “Gen Sui,” was the first local authority to surface and respond to a post in the “Mindanao Tapatan Lane” Facebook page about the whereabouts of P96.4-million funds indicated in the 2018 special allotment release order (SARO) for the purchase of Bureau of Fire Protection facilities (P7.3M), installation of fire hydrants (P3.5M), and purchase of BFP equipment, supplies and materials (P85M).

A photo of the 2018 SAROs were posted by Montila in the Facebook page ostensibly to elicit clarification from Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) officials and other authorities.

“Based on information, the P85M was used to purchase 2 Hazmat (shuttle) trucks, 1 rescue vehicle and 1 ambulance unit,” Montila said, expressing wonder why no fire truck was included when Marawi City has no fire truck since 2017.

According to past reports, Marawi used to have four fire trucks, but the invading ISIS-inspired rebels commandeered one unit and torched the three others along with the old city’s fire station building.

Montila believed the P96-M fire prevention facilities-intended funds were coursed through the TFBM, being the lead entity for all rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.

The Philippine Muslim Today tried but failed to get reactions from the city government and the TFBM, to which the “Mindanao Tapatan Lane” post was principally meant to comment on.

Macabantog said the TFBM earlier announced an upcoming donation of four fire trucks from China, something he believed to be a reason why the Task Force did not purchase a fire truck out of the P85M fund.

He said the city also has no fire hydrant yet despite the 2018 P3.5M fund allocation for installation of such facilities, adding that the hitch was spawned by the absence of main water pipelines in the city.

Montila posted another e-copy of 2018 SARO amounting to P174.5-million intended for the rehabilitation of the city water district.

The P174.5M is broken down as: Operations reactivation of the Marawi City Water District (P8.7M); Replacement of defective pipelines (P8.9M); purchase of tools and equipment and repair of defective pipelines (P5.2M); extension of pipelines system ((P7.1M); provision of water supply for temporary IDPs’ shelters (P59M); provision of water supply for permanent shelters (P15.2M); and provision of sewerage system for collection of and treatment tank overflows at Saronsongan transitional shelter (P70M).

Montila hinted no implementation yet of projects programmed under the P174.5M SARO, citing in particular the case of the P70-M sewerage system in Sagonsongan transitional shelter camp.

In a separate post shared in the “Mindanao Tapatan Lane” page, Montila announced that BFP Regional Director for Bangsamoro region Chief Supt. Victor Vibares directed on Feb. 23 the provincial BFP office to lend one fire truck for Marawi City pending acquisition of its own fire truck(s). But the order was never implemented, said.

Montila posted lately a message, conveying his “appeal in strongest possible that a temporary unit (fire truck) from outside Lanao del Sur be assigned to Marawi City while waiting for delivery of donation (from China) thru the TFBM that will be permanently owned by Marawi City.”

“We are in a race against time and fire incidents while waiting for the donation,” he said. (AGM)

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