President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure seeking to allow some 2,000 firefighters to carry guns in an effort to promote public safety.
Duterte on Friday approved Republic Act 11589 or Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Modernization Act, which primarily seeks a better fire protection program through modern equipment and specialized training.
“I am therefore confident that the passage of the modernization act will help boost the morale, efficiency, responsiveness, and professionalism of the BFP in realizing their mandate,” he said during the signing of the law in Malacañang.
The President then justified the need for arming firefighters, saying they could help the police in protecting government properties.
“In the mind of some, why would you give a gun to a firefighter when they are only putting out fire? You know, the organization itself and the firefighters, they are exposed to a fraught of so many dangers,” he said.
“They would only be given a unit, whose function would really be just to ward off threats and destruction of government properties,” Duterte added.
Under the law, 14 firefighters in every fire regional office and city station would be authorized to carry firearms as members of the security and protection unit.
The figure is equivalent to 2,282 firefighters or 7.9 percent of the 32,800-strong BFP, based on the data presented by Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa during the lawmakers’ deliberations on the proposed measure.
Duterte expressed hopes that the law would inspire BFP personnel to hone their skills and expertise in fire prevention and suppression, as well as emergency, medical response, and disaster preparedness.
“Under this law, the BFP will embark on a 10-year modernization period transforming it into a modern and world-class institution. This will consistently guarantee our safety and become the source of pride,” he said.
Apart from providing new life-saving equipment and specialized training, the measure also establishes the BFP Modernization trust fund, which includes appropriations for the bureau’s modernization.
It also accounts for 80 percent of the BFP’s share from all taxes, fees, and fines collected pursuant to the Fire Code of the Philippines.