MANILA, Philippines – Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, the factory in Valenzuela City that was hit by a blaze on Wednesday, killing at least 72 people, complied with occupational safety requirements as of September 2014.
On Thursday, May 14, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that records of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) show that “the firm was assessed to have been compliant” as of 8 months ago.
“By way of background, Kentex Manufacturing Corporation has been found to be compliant with general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards after a joint assessment by our Labor Laws Compliance Officers under the new Labor Laws Compliance System,” Baldoz said in a statement.
She said that DOLE-NCR issued the company a Certificate of Compliance on September 18, 2014, adding that the company was found to have a "safety committee, with a union member representative, that implements safety rules and regulations.”
“Also, the DOLE-NCR has conducted a technical inspection of the company on 30 January 2014, during which the factory’s boilers used for heating have been found to be in satisfactory condition," Baldoz said.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said in an interview at the factory site in Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela, on Thursday that agencies responsible for the issuance of various safety-related permits to Kentex would also be investigated.
Malacañang vowed to investigate the incident to ensure Kentex was compliant in the last few months.
“DOLE is coordinating with the Bureau of Fire Protection in ascertaining if there had been violations of safety regulations so that proper accountability may be established,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said.
Malacañang said it was “saddened” by the tragedy which “resulted in the death of many workers.”
“Government is firmly determined to intensify inspection of factories to ensure strict compliance with occupational safety and health standards and prevent a repetition of the Kentex fire and similar disasters that pose grave danger to the safety and lives of Filipino workers,” Coloma said.
Baldoz also expressed her “deepest sympathies."
"This is a sad day for the DOLE, a workplace tragedy that diminishes us all,” she said, and assured that her department will provide "social and labor justice" to the bereaved families."
In a statement, Baldoz said “DOLE will ensure that the victims and their families will receive social and labor justice.”
'Higher labor law compliance'
Malacañang also defended DOLE in the face of the workplace tragedy, saying the department has intensified “its compliance with labor law standards, including the hiring of additional labor inspectors.”
“As a result, a total of 76,880 companies were inspected in 2014, compared to the average of 23,400 companies inspected during the previous decade. Of those inspected, a total of 8,974 companies were found to have either closed or could not be located in the recorded address; 67,906 underwent occupational health and safety (OSH) investigation,” Coloma said.
He added that of the companies inspected, 44,041 companies were found to be compliant while 23,865 were required to take corrective action. Of the latter, 7,528 companies have since complied, raising the number of compliant companies to 51,569 or 76% of all those inspected.
Despite the supposedly strict government standards however, the footwear factory in Barangay Ugong was gutted by fire reportedly caused by sparks from a welding activity on the factory’s gate which sparked off nearby containers of chemicals.
According to Eufracia Taylor, Asia Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, the fire is a blow to the administration “which has prided itself on improving workplace conditions and prioritising compliance with labour standards” – especially given the timing.
“The timing of the incident will be particularly embarrassing for the government, which just days ago publicly reiterated its commitment to upholding labor standards, especially occupational health and safety, at the 2015 Labor Day celebrations,” she said.
Taylor also said the fire “will constitute a significant setback to the reputation of the Philippine manufacturing sector, which has fought hard to compete with its regional peers.”
Baldoz said DOLE-NCR is currently coordinating with the company to ensure financial obligations and benefits are received by the victims and the families of the deceased.
Baldoz also said Kentex is a unionized company so workers are entitled to government mandated social security and workmen’s compensation benefits.
Families of the deceased are expected to receive P20,000 in funeral benefit and death pension benefit, depending on the worker’s last salary, from the Social Security System, while survivors who need to be hospitalized will be entitled to medical or hospital benefits and sickness benefit of up to 120 days at a maximum of P200 per day.
Those injured in the fire are entitled to free rehabilitation, and prosthesis if needed.
Baldoz said the ECC also has livelihood and skills training for those who may not be able to work anymore. – Rappler.com