Fire destroys proposed site for Balay Silangan
posted 1-Dec-2018  ·  
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Photo By Joseph Sales
FIREMEN OF THE VIRAC FIRE STATION. battle the evening blaze that erupted last Nov. 21, 2018 at the former provincial jail building, recently utilized as waste storage facility by several offices and agencies at the capitol compound.

Plans for the operation of the Balay Silangan reformation center for drug pushers inside the provincial capitol compound literally went up in smoke last week after a fire razed the former provincial jail building.

A report from Virac Fire Station fire and arson investigator FO3 Sherwin Valeza stated that the Nov. 21, 2018 blaze started at the back of the right portion of the unoccupied building, with the cracked insulation of old electrical wirings triggering an electrical short circuit and igniting combustible waste materials nearby.

Since the jail facility was closed years back, it has been used as a storage area for waste materials, unserviceable equipment and disposable documents by several provincial and national offices, a capitol source said.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) station in Virac learned of the blaze at 9 P.M. that night from a certain Gregorio Noel de Nava, with Fire Engine No. 04 immediately dispatched to the scene just 300 meters away from the Virac Fire Station. The local fire personnel were assisted by fire engines from the San Andres and Bato Fire Stations, with the fire declared extinguished by 11:30 P.M.

However, smoke continued to issue from the still smoldering piles of paper inside the building, forcing the management of the nearby Juan M. Alberto Memorial Elementary School (JMAMES) to suspend classes the next day to prevent pupils from inhaling the probably toxic smoke.

There were no casualties in the incident, with damages estimated to be at least P300,000.00.

While the damage can be deemed minimal, the setback it caused for the provincial government’s plan to establish its own Balay Silangan is expected to be more costly.

It may be recalled that last Aug. 23, 2018, Governor Joseph Cua led municipal mayors, as representatives of the local Anti-Drug Abuse Councils, in signing twin memoranda of agreement as stakeholders in the establishment of Balay Silangan and its program for drug offenders, with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the Department of Justice’s Probation and Parole Administration, Department of Health Malinao Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (DOG-MTRC) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as the other parties.

Under the twin agreements, the province’s successful Community-Based Treatment and Rehabilitation Program (CBTRP) will be the Balay Silangan’s Point of Instruction.

Under Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Regulation No. 2, series of 2018, LGUs are charged with, among others, the establishment and operation of the Balay Silangan, provide human resources as well as a facility that will include a classroom, library, toilet, mess area, shower area, sleeping quarters and sports or recreation area.

The program of instruction for the center’s beneficiaries include Knowledge of Illegal Drugs, Ill Effects of Illegal Drugs, Awareness on RA 9165, Counselling/Consultative Meetings, Moral Recovery Activities, Personal and Life Skills, Community Service, Family Visitation, and Livelihood or Employment  Education.

On the other hand, municipal LGUs will provide budgetary support, including subsistence allowance of drug personalities, and coordinate with national angencies for the provision of educational, livelihood, spiritual and other programs.

The PNP will assign six security personnel on 24-hour rotation to the Balay Silangan, with the BJMP Virac and San Andres district jails to contribute one personnel each to man the operation of Balay while the other parties will monitor and supervise the implementation of the program. The Parole and Probation office will provide technical assistance, including training.

The Cua administration has reportedly set aside an initial P5 million for the renovation of the jail facility, but with the fire damage to the building will mean it would have to construct a new building that would considerably cost more.

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