DOLE contradicts PEZA: Company in Cavite fire violated standards

MANILA, Philippines – Results of a probe conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) found House Technology Industries (HTI), the company involved in the massive February 2017 fire in Caviteguilty of volating labor and safety standards.

Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod, who headed the investigation, said HTI and its contractors failed to issue protective equipment to workers exposed to sharp objects and hazardous fumes. 

The HTI factory, located in the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ), also does not have enough safety officers. DOLE found that HTI only has 12 safety officers for its total workforce of 7,062. The Philippines' Occupational Safety and Health Standards require 15 safety officers for every 7,000 employees.

"We should revoke the certificates of compliance with the general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards of HTI and its contractors because of the violations noted during the investigations," Maglungsod said. 

The fire that broke in the Japanese-owned firm last February 1 left 5 workers dead and caused over P15 billion in damage. (IN PHOTOS: After the fire, EPZA's HTI building)

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), which oversees companies in special economic zones, earlier cleared HTI of safety violations.

But labor groups that conducted their own fact-finding mission found that HTI violated provisions in the Occupational Safety and Health Standards as well as the Building Code of the Philippines. 

From interviews with HTI workers and their families, they found that the building did not have the mandated number of exits and its stairway exits do not lead to the streets.

DOLE also found that HTI's contractors or the third-party agencies that provided manpower for the factory illegally deducted wages from some of the workers. They also failed to grant service incentive leave pay which the workers were entitled to in the wake of the incident.

Maglungsod said illegal deductions amounted to P10.8 million, while the service incentive leave pay reached P15.65 million. He said these should be paid immediately to the workers. –

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.