MANILA - Firefighters will soon bear firearms to help maintain peace and order, and for self-defense purposes when fire victims gang up on Bureau of Fire Protection personnel, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Wednesday.
"Despite the decreasing crime rate in the country, having the BFP's firefighters in our peace and order campaign is a boost and welcome addition in ensuring a safe and secure country," he said in a statement.
"May mga pagkakataon na sa kagustuhan ng mga tao na unahing isalba ang kanilang nasusunog na bahay, kinukuyog nila ang mga bombero at nagkakagulo. Nais din naman nating protektahan at sundin ng mga tao ang ating mga bombero habang ginagawa nila ang kanilang trabaho," he said.
(When people are desperate to save their homes and their things, they gang up on firefighters. We of course want to protect our people while they are fulfilling their duty.)
The BFP already requested funds from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to buy nearly 30,000 9mm pistols.
Año said the move was "timely and critical in the government's drive against criminality, illegal drugs, terrorism, and violent extremism," and is in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive of not limiting BFP's role to firefighting.
He emphasized that firefighters need to undergo gun safety training before getting their firearms.
Under Republic Act 6975 or Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990, firefighters could assist government troops in times of national emergency.
"Their primary responsibility is still preventing and suppressing fire and enforcement of the Fire Code," Año clarified.
BFP director Jose Segundo Embang said firefighters should scale up "to cope with the demands of the times."
"Hindi na ito 'yong conditional firefighters na nakikita natin before. Ito na iyong mga modern heroes... Ngayon ay makakasama na kami sa pagpapanatili ng public safety,” he said.
[They will not be anymore the conditional firefighters we've seen before. They are now modern heroes... We'll now be part of maintaining public safety.]