By Herbert Vego
A news item in this paper yesterday reported that the Iloilo City Council had passed a resolution asking President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to help relocate the 299 families whose homes in barangays West Habog-Habog and San Juan perished in Saturday’s fire.
This corner wonders whether presidential intervention would still be necessary. It’s not because BBM is too busy with his foreign travels but because Mayor Jerry P. Treñas has already coordinated with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) to buy the “squattered” land from a wealthy family identified only as “Layson” for a medium-rise housing available to the fire victims.
The units would comprise a portion of the national government’s commitment to build one million houses per year.
More on that later while we still remain unclear on the complete “specifics” of the massive city fire.
Back to our column teaser, yes, it’s Marcos coming to the city tomorrow — the President’s sister, Sen. Imee Marcos. From her media officer Florante Rosales, I learned that she would personally hand out “ayuda” and food packs to the fire victims. She had raised the fund from the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), a program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The fire victims are temporarily relocated at the Baluarte Elementary School and San Juan Elementary School.
The city government, on the other hand, has already extended help to the fire victims through the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and the City Health Office (CHO).
ELECTRICAL OVERLOAD MOST LIKELY CULPRIT
As our previous column observed, the barangay captain of West Habog-Habog, Lee Quimsing, added insult to injury when he blamed firemen for failure to stop the fire that razed the two barangays.
I also quoted the media statement of the regional director of the Bureau of Fire Prevention (BFP), FCSupt. Jerry Candido, passing back the blame because the narrow roads had rendered the entry of firetrucks impossible.
Naturally, between Quimsing and Candido, the latter is more believable.
Imagine a three-hectare area congested with almost 300 homes of light materials. While most of the more than 1,000 individuals there are poor, some don’t deserve to be called “squatters”; they owned cars and trucks that had converted the roads into “garage”.
It’s the barangay heads’ responsibility to regulate the population and road networks in their territories. For whatever imaginable reasons, they have ignored implementing safety measures despite the scores of fires that “visit” Iloilo City yearly. They need not be reminded that an overloaded electrical circuit in just one home is enough to ignite fire and gut the entire neighborhood.
Unfortunately, some barangay leaders stubbornly refuse to encourage power pilferers to legally connect with the distribution utility, MORE Power. Wala talaga silang pakialam.
Kon si Marites ang pamangkuton, they welcome more voters in the barangay because…. Sugponan n’yo na lang.
The “faulty electrical wirings” that are the usual cause of fires are the fault of residents who install “jumpers” that bypass the meters to steal electricity. In the end, the money they save for non-payment of bills would not compensate for a burned house.
“Jumper” cables transfer current faster. It overloads the system. Since an overloaded circuit carries more current than it is designed to handle, it ignites fire through overheating.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro have been urging the unidentified pilferers to connect to the power grid for their own safety.
Alas, they should have availed themselves of the MORE Konek program which, according to company exec Ma. Cecilia “Maricel” Pe, encourages informal settlers to apply for low-load accounts with very few requirements, namely an accomplished application form, a government-issued ID, barangay residency certificate, electrical safety inspection report with electrical plan and vicinity map, and an oath of undertaking.
Nasa huli talaga ang pagsisisi.