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Why a building? Why not fire trucks? – Dudy L.

COUNCILOR CLAUDIO “Dudy” Larrazabal, known for his meticulousness in scrutinizing proposed projects of the city administration even if he is a party-mate of Mayor Eric Codilla under the LAKAS-Kampi banner, has questioned the planned Fire Department Building during the December 5 session of the Sangguniang Panglungsod.
He has also made it clear during that particular session that he was against the project, when told he can register a “no” vote or register his objection by the presiding officer, vice mayor Nepomuceno P.  Aparis I.
The building is estimated to cost the city around P 10-million. Larrazabal said that he is wondering why the city had to spend on a building which is not that necessary for the fire department to function well, rather than buy a new fire truck or two.
Larrazabal posed the question after councilor Ruben R. Capahi, chairman on infrastructure, introduced the measure for second reading, seconded by Sotero Pepito. “I was just wondering … why the City of Ormoc has to spend P 10-million to build a building which we do not have jurisdiction over considering that the Fire Department is under the National Government or rather in the office of the Philippine National Police?”
Why does the city have “to spend this much” when “it is not our sole responsibility”. Yes, he said, the city is allowed to give aid to a national office but P 10-million is a lot of money, and why not only P 5-million or even just P 2-million just like the aid the city is extending to other national offices.
“I would like to ask the proponent if he knows what is really the reason behind” in extending that much aid, he posed to  Capahi, who is a first cousin of Mayor Eric C. Codilla.
But rather than answering Larrazabal, Capahi referred the question to city engineer Ranulfo Oliveros who was around. Oliveros, on the other hand, began explaining the technical details of the building.
Larrazabal, however, cut short Oliveros saying he was not asking for the technical description but its rationale. “We do not need a building but we need fire trucks”, he said, “so, instead of a building, we buy fire trucks”.
On the other hand, Capahi, who is also a lawyer, said he does not see any legal implications on constructing a building for the fire department. If the city can build schoolbuildings, why not a building for the fire department.
To which Larrazabal retorted that it was a different thing. “It is mandated by law that we have to allocate funds the special education fund”, unlike the matter at hand.
After Larrazabal and Capahi’s discussion, councilor Mario Rodriguez asked on whose request the building was being constructed, whether it was a mere improvement on the existing building.
It was gathered that the old building will be totally demolished and a new building started from scratch. It was also learned that the construction is at the mayor’s behest, as there is no document from the Fire Department showing it requested the construction.
Engr. Oliveros said that he was advised by the mayor about the project and it would even be the “executive” that will make the program of works for the P 10-million.
At this point, Liberal Party councilor Roland Villasencio began asking for the technical details. Villasencio is a civil engineer by profession and knows building costs.
His questions, however, were cut short when Capahi said that “given the substance of the discussions”, he suggests the matter be taken up for future discussions. He also suggested that these questions be taken up during their caucus not to “needlessly prolong the discussions we have on the floor”.
The matter was then deferred but again, was to be taken up this Thursday, December 15. It was, however, deferred again on the reason that the “people who deferred it are not around”.
The matter of the efficiency of the fire department here is a sensitive matter.  To recall, 28 people died at the Unitop fire on Christmas Day of 2006.
Then, there was the Punta fire where victims claimed the fire truck that arrived at the area first did not have enough water.
Close to the elections of 2010, two houses just about 30 meters away from the fire department substation downtown were razed. The fire trucks in the substation could not respond to the fire call because they had yet to be repaired.
Ormocanons then began clamoring for better services from the fire department, imploring the city’s help to assist the BFP improve its efficiency. A councilor went on air over Power FM to explain that the fire department is a national agency and cannot extend assistance to it.
A source close to Larrazabal said that the councilor is disturbed at the idea of the city spending so much on a building when it cannot help put out fires. A fire truck or two, and complete firemen’s gear would. By L.  M. Jimenea

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