MANILA, June 30 — Some 400 towns nationwide still do not have their own firetrucks to immediately respond during fire emergencies, according to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

DILG Officer-in-Charge Catalino Cuy noted that some of these towns could have been the recipients of the 24 new Rosenbauer firetrucks that remain stuck in the Port of Batangas since April this year.

The 24 units are part of the second batch of Rosenbauer firetrucks from Austria which are now the subject of a pending petition before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the legality of the firetrucks deal.

“With the said firetrucks, these towns should now have been in a much better position to provide timely and efficient fire services to their constituents,” Cuy said.

However, he said, the Department was in consultation with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which has advised the DILG to wait until the issue is resolved by the SC before proceeding with the firetrucks distribution.

“The firetrucks are really of superior quality but we could not just push through with the distribution right away because of the current situation,” Cuy said.

He stressed that the deal with the Austrian government was entered into by the Department with clearance from the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Justice (DOJ), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the National Economic Development Authority .

The DILG is still requesting for a black-and-white document from the concerned agencies and the Rosenbauer representative to shed light on whether the firetruck deal is indeed a government-to-government contract.

In 2013, the DILG acquired the initial batch of firetrucks from the Austrian government which had been distributed and used by the recipient local government units (LGUs).

Cuy pointed out that once distributed, the second batch of firetrucks could greatly help the LGUs, especially in urban areas, to respond faster to fire and other emergencies.

“There are LGUs which are still using 30-year old firetrucks that really need to be replaced very soon,” he said.

Cuy expressed hope that the pending petition before the SC would be resolved at the soonest possible time so that the intended firetrucks will reach their intended users.

The Bureau of Fire Protection’s (BFP) active procurement of new firetrucks is part of their modernization program as mandated by the Fire Code of the Philippines.

The BFP is an attached agency of the DILG.

“Continuous ang bidding para sa mga firetrucks so that all LGUs will be covered. We really need these, including aerial ladders, for urban LGUs with high-rise buildings,” Cuy said. (PTR/PNA)