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DILG admits 911 hotline still 'quite far' from US style

The 911 emergency hotline of the Philippines is still “quite far” from its counterpart in the United States (US), an official from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) admitted Wednesday.

DILG Undersecretary Lord Villanueva made the remark during the Senate finance committee hearing on the department and its attached agencies’ proposed P262-billion budget for fiscal year 2024.

“The ultimate dream is the US style set up where we have LGUs each with their own local 911 center…Considering po that there are so far 22 local call centers set up, we are still quite far away [from US’ style],” Villanueva said.

“I think our initial estimate is that to start gaining some real headway maybe around 30% of LGUs would have to establish their own local call center for it to really sink into the public’s consciousness as a viable emergency system,” he added.

He said only 22 local call centers were established and funded by various local government units and if there is no local setup, the call will be directed to the national headquarters of the 911 service.

Due to lack of local call centers, Villanueva said the national headquarters is receiving around 60,000 calls—a volume which, he said, is “simply too great for the existing manpower of the central headquarters.”

“Currently, the 911 services receive 60,000 calls per day from which we have 60 personnel per shift but right now we only have a budget of 11 personnel per shift,” he said.

“Basically, we need a six-fold increase in our manpower to properly address the volume of calls that we are receiving,” he added.

For fiscal year 2023, Villanueva said they requested for a budget of P280 million but they were only granted P26 million.

For 2024, the DILG official said they requested P306 million but was only granted the same amount as this year’s under the National Expenditures Program (NEP).

“The decentralized setup similar to what happening now in the US would be the only practical way to address this in a national scale and the role of the national 911 as it is in the US would be to impose standards and training and ensure that each local center complies with the standards and in fact, that is what we have been doing with respect to the roughly 22 911 local centers that have already been set up,” he said.

Should Congress grant them the budget, Villanueva said they hope to establish a “complete national network of 911 services under a common standard and under a common training.”

In 2018, former President Rodrigo Duterte issued an Executive Order which set  “911” as the new emergency hotline for crime prevention and public safety.

Executive Order 56 institutionalizes the Emergency 911 Hotline to replace the Patrol 117 hotline network as it cited the need to conform with international standards on emergency numbers for public telecommunication networks.—AOL, GMA Integrated News