MANILA, Philippines – The owners of the factory where at least 72 workers died in a fire Wednesday will be probed for its “pakyawan” system, or its hiring of casual, unregistered workers, usually on a daily or weekly basis.
In a chance interview with reporters on Thursday, May 14, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said that Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City, had 3 kinds of workers:
- those hired by the company directly
- those hired through an agency
- those hired through the “pakyawan system,” where they pull out locals to work for short-time projects
Workers hired under the pakyawan system have no records in the company, Roxas noted.
“Aalamin rin natin dahil may mga violations rin ‘yan,” the Interior chief noted. (We’ll have to find that out because that’s a violation in itself.)
One of the survivors of the blaze, 18-year-old Noriel Coralde, told Rappler that there were a lot of contractual workers in the company. Contractual workers are only hired for a short amount of time and do not receive employment benefits such as health plans. Neither are they given security of tenure.
President Benigno Aquino III ordered Roxas to visit the site of the deadly factory fire, which claimed the lives of at least 72 workers. The interior chief was in Pampanga Thursday morning to inaugurate several projects by the local government.
In Valenzuela, Roxas, accompanied by police and fire bureau officials, inspected the site of the fire and spoke to families of the dead. The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), both under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), have been tasked to probe the incident.
Of the 72 individuals whose remains have been recovered, at least 3 have been identified. The rest will have to be identified through DNA tests.
Probers will also have to determine why windows on the second floor of the building had steel barriers installed. Roxas also questioned why of the 72 dead, 69 were trapped in the second floor.
Labor group Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa, in a statement, said government must find out not only what caused the fire but why most of those who perished were on the second floor.
Investigators will also need to determine if the proper permits were secured by the company.
Based on initial reports, the fire was caused by welding activities, which in turn set aflame chemicals also stored in the building.
“This tragedy could have been prevented had government agencies, which include the labor department and local government units, strictly enforced the OSHS (occupational safety and health standards) requirements in workplaces,” said Alan Tanjusay of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines in a Thursday statement.
Roxas earlier assured families that they will be receiving help from both the local and national governments. – with a report from Katerina Francisco/Rappler.com
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