ON THE morning of January 15, 2022, a fire burned down 26 houses under the Bolton Bridge along Quimpo Boulevard in Davao City. While there were no injuries or deaths reported, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said around P200,000 worth of damages were caused by the fire.

"Ang ato gitan-aw na hingudan sa sunog ang kuryente. Prior sa incident, naa sa ground floor ang tag-iya sa balay, nagluto siya, then nakadungog siya og siyagit sa silingan na naay sunog (We are looking into faulty electrical wiring as the main cause of the fire. Prior to the incident, the house owner was cooking on the ground floor when she heard her neighbor shout that her house was on fire)," Senior Fire Officer 4 Ramil Gillado, chief of Intelligence and Investigation of the Davao City Fire District, told SunStar Davao in a phone interview on Sunday, January 16.

After the fire, the Department of Public Works and Highways in Davao Region (DPWH-Davao) announced that Bolton Bridge I and II will be closed to vehicular traffic until further notice. Following an inspection on Monday, January 17, 2021, cracks were discovered on the bridge as a result of the fire.

The closure of the bridge led to heavy traffic in the Bankerohan Bridge and other roads connecting the northern and southern parts of the city.

While there are a lot of factors as to why people chose to live under the Bolton Bridge, their actions have caused unnecessary inconvenience to many.

Therefore, there seems to be a need for the city or the national government to implement policies or strategies that would prevent people from putting up houses in these conditions.

The government could start by intensifying its implementation of Republic Act 7279 or the “Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.” The law seeks to "Uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban areas and in resettlement areas by making available to them decent housing at affordable cost, basic services, and employment opportunities."

This would mean that the government or local government unit will have to look for relocation sites where informal settlers, like those living under the bridge, can resettle and rebuild their lives.

Another strategy could be making regular checks under the bridge to prevent people from living under it.

Those living under the bridge are those in poverty and are just looking for a place to live. However, what they are doing puts them, the bridge, and the general public at risk of another similar incident. Those who have been living under the bridge are also at risk of being swept by flooding.

The government has the resources and must take proactive steps to prevent this and prevent people from living under a bridge.

We hope the local government unit and other concerned agencies will quickly find a relocation site for not only the victims of the fire but also for others who have been living under other bridges in the city.