By Priam Nepomuceno

FIRE SAFETY. Firefighters respond to the blaze at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital compound in Manila which reached the second alarm on March 13, 2024. The Task Force El Niño on Monday (March 25) has directed the Bureau of Fire Protection to ensure the protection of all public hospitals and health facilities in the country from fires. (PNA file photo by Ben Pulta)

MANILA – The Task Force El Niño, chaired by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., has directed the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to ensure the protection of all public hospitals and health facilities in the country from fires.

“During the presidential task force’s fourth meeting, Chairperson and Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., said that the BFP ‘must ensure a safe environment for everyone, especially of those seeking healthcare services and of the medical, healthcare service, and related professionals and workers’,” Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Monday.

In the meeting, Teodoro stressed the need to reduce the overall risk of fire-related incidents, accidents, and emergencies, most especially in all public hospitals and public health facilities.

Meanwhile, Capt. Umar Aduca, who represented the BFP during the meeting, said they would immediately convey Teodoro’s guidance to the Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos.

“Fire safety is of paramount importance in order to preserve lives and protect properties. We must protect individuals from harm and ensure their well-being. We must decrease the risk of property loss, destruction, and financial losses. We must reinvigorate the promotion of public safety,” Aduca said.

Under President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order (EO) 53, which directs the government to streamline, reactivate, and reconstitute the old El Niño task forces under EO 16 (s. 2001) and Memorandum Order 38 (s. 2019), Teodoro was appointed chairperson of the task force, with Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. designated as co-chairperson.

Signed on Jan. 19, 2024, Marcos’ executive order directs the task force to develop a comprehensive disaster preparedness and rehabilitation plan for El Niño and La Niña to provide “systematic, holistic, and results-driven interventions” to help the public cope and minimize their devastating effects.

The President also designated the following officials as task force members: Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga, Secretary of Agriculture Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., Secretary of Health Teodoro Herbosa, and Secretary of National Economic and Development Authority Arsenio Balisacan. (PNA)