Valenzuela shuts down businesses with no fire safety certificate

MANILA, Philippines – After being criticized for allowing a fire-hit footwear factory to operate even without a fire safety certificate, the Valenzuela City government has ordered the shutdown of all business establishments that do not have an FSIC.

In a general executive order issued on Thursday, June 4, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian also ordered all business establishments to present their valid FSICs within 7 days from receipt of the order.

"Otherwise, the immediate revocation and closure of the business establishment is hereby ordered without need of further notice, executive and/or closure order," he said.

The directive comes several days after President Benigno Aquino III criticized Valenzuela City officials for issuing a provisional business permit to Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, owner of the factory struck by a blaze that killed 72 employees on May 13.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) earlier said the Valenzuela  government should not have granted Kentex a business permit without the requisite fire safety inspection.

Gatchalian, however, has defended the issuance of the business permit, citing 3 memorandum circulars from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the BFP.

He said it is within the city government's mandate to issue a provisional business permit, based on the one-stop shop policy implemented in various local government units (LGUs) meant to streamline the process of issuing business permits.

Gatchalian also said that it was the BFP's job to conduct post-audit evaluations and recommend the revocation of permits for establishments that do not meet fire safety standards.

In the case of Kentex, Gatchalian said the BFP "never got back" to them with a negative report against the footwear factory.

'Abandoned' policy

Gatchalian has repeatedly cited the 2011 memorandum circular of the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo as basis for the issuance of the provisional business permit.

The circular recognized the existence of one-stop shops to cut red tape and speed up transactions. It also ordered the BFP to notify city hall if there are establishments that do not comply with the Fire Code.

Based on this, Gatchalian said the BFP can recommend the revocation of the business permit if an establishment was found to be non-compliant.

But on Monday, June 1, Aquino echoed the BFP's position that the FSIC should be a prerequisite to the grant of business permits.

In his order, Gatchalian noted that Aquino "has pronounced the government policy of 'No FSIC, No Business Permits.'"

The Valenzuela mayor also said that he consulted Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II to clarify the issue.

"Upon query by the undersigned Mayor, Secretary Mar Roxas replied that the policy now is 'No FSIC, No Business Permit' and warned all mayors to take the risk arising from the issuance of business permits without the FSIC in cases of fire incidents in their areas of jurisdiction," the order read.

"[It confirmed] that Secretary Robredo's policy circulars authorizing issuance of business permits subject to post FSIC inspection have already been abandoned," it added.

Of the more than 15,000 business establishments in the city, only 2,667 have been issued FSICs.

The order also suspends the issuance or renewal of a business permit without a valid FSIC. – Rappler.com