Malilong: No-el? Thy will be done

IT’S sad that Metro Ayala burned. Many people will find their lives changed in the next few days, especially the hundreds of workers who will lose their jobs, if they haven’t lost them yet, hopefully not permanently. I hope that the establishments that have to shut down as a result of the fire have plans for their employees in anticipation of contingencies like this.

But even in times of distress, we can always look at the bright side, such as that it could have been worse. The initial reports say there are no casualties; everyone is safe. If we remember the more than thirty lives lost in a similar mall fire in Davao recently, we can consider ourselves blessed.

When I wrote this, the fire has reportedly not been put out yet. While we were walking at the Abellana oval yesterday morning, smoke was still billowing from a distance. The smell of fumes was also palpable. And it was at six o’clock, some eight hours after the fire broke out and at least two kilometers away from the scene of the conflagration.

No fault of the firefighters. Indeed, there is nothing that can be said against how our firemen, including volunteers from the Chinese fire brigade, responded to the alarm. But while we should praise City Councilor Dave Tumulak for his foresight in pushing for the purchase of the equipment that bore a hole so smoke could be released from inside the burning building, the Ayala Metro fire once again dramatized the need to acquire additional and, if possible, state-of-the-art tools for our fire department.

The need becomes even more felt if you consider how many skyscrapers have risen in Cebu during the last ten years.

I remember when Robinson’s Fuente burned a few years ago. Trapped customers and hotel guests were evacuated through a bucket hanging from the top of an aerial ladder which, however, could go as high as the third floor only.

Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, who was one of the first few officials to rush to the fire scene the other night, said that once upon a time, the city acquired a fire truck with an aerial ladder capable of reaching many storeys higher than the third floor through a donation from Japan. He knows because it was he and former Cebu City councilor Rudy Estella who received the donation in behalf of the city.

The ladder was equipped with a bucket and a hose and was therefore useful for combating fires in tall buildings. Labella, however, said he has not seen the city’s fire department deploy the equipment lately. “Where is it now?” he asks. Let me guess. It is rotting somewhere in a junkyard because the government failed to have it repaired. So if, God forbid, a fire breaks out in the 11th floor of a condominium, our firemen will have to wait until it descends to the third or the fourth floor to douse it. If it were not only sad, it could have been funny.

•••

No election in 2019 and in 2022? Possible, say both House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Koko Pimentel. The no-el scenario is premised on the approval of a new constitution adopting a federal form of government.

A new constitution looks like a done deal even at this point since it is Congress, sitting as a constituent assembly, that will craft it. Ratification is going to be a breeze, too, considering how popular the Duterte administration is.

Thy will be done. What else can we say?
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