Finally, a senator’s quality gift for Filipinos

It’s Christmas! Let us all rejoice for the coming of our Savior with peace in our hearts as we reflect on, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10 of the Bible.

Indeed, Christmas is a season of hope, peace and goodwill to men. But for an even better world, we should let the spirit of Christmas dwell in our hearts forever. As what American writer of religious poetry Helen Steiner Rice once said: “Peace on Earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.”

And with that, how could this year’s Christmas be even more meaningful to me and the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) that I chair, with Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s filing of Senate Bill 1239. The bill seeks to protect and ensure the safety of consumers, even as it is also designed to set the premise for creating the Philippines as an exemplary model for world-class standards.

Consumer and industry protection through the strengthening of the country’s product standard laws and rules is a long-standing advocacy of FPI, an organization composed of manufacturers of building and construction materials, such as steel, wood, glass and tiles, among others. And Lacson’s act of throwing in his hat in the campaign to tighten the country’s building safety standards, by amending and strengthening the antiquated National Building Code, could be the boost needed to enhance the country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program.

We’ve already had many “drop, cover and hold” disaster response simulation exercises in the country. The big question, however, is, even if we follow the exercise by heart, will the building hold?

The Federation fully supports, and is ready to help, the good senator in his bid to amend the National Building Code, if only to make it responsive to present day needs. The old 1977 Building Code already has many irrelevant provisions, just as it also lacks provisions that are most needed today.  Moreover, building officials, especially those assigned to issue building permits, should also be knowledgeable on the Building Code. And on this light, the Federation will hold a Building Summit next year where manufacturers, developers and building officials, among others, would meet to discuss various issues affecting the whole spectrum of building construction and public safety, especially on product standards.

We see a lot of present day issues to discuss, such as the relevance of the country’s Fire Code with the National Building Code. The skyline of the country’s highly urbanized areas are now dotted with high-rise buildings. How are fire safety issues addressed in this scenario then, when the firefighting capabilities of even the country’s most modern communities are limited to a certain number of floors only?

But it’s not only building safety that needs immediate attention. We also suggest to the good senator to consider the risks to consumers of substandard and/or uncertified food and medical products. The country’s food and drugs rules and laws should also be scrutinized and strengthened.

We believe in the senator’s purpose to enhance public safety. And we fully support him, not only as a friend, but for his well-earned reputation as a straightforward, honest and credible legislator, as well.

As FPI chair, I would like to thank the honorable senator for this long- awaited boost to our advocacy to promote consumer safety and local industry protection. Kudos to Lacson for a job well done.

And most important, Lacson’s Senate Bill 1239 would make this year’s Christmas even more meaningful, for not only will Filipinos be able to experience peace, hope and goodwill to men, but with stricter building standards, we could also live and sleep with peace of mind, even amid threats of “The Big One.”

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza is the chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries and Fight Illicit Trade; a broad-based, multisectoral movement intended to protect consumers, safeguard government revenues and shield legitimate industries from the ill effects of smuggling.

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