MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacanañang said on Saturday, May 16, that the labor department and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) will be ramping up efforts to ensure proper working conditions in industrial workplaces, following the fire at a Valenzuela footwear factory that killed 72 people.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte explained in an interview on state-run Radyo ng Bayan that "the labor department is also intensifying their inspections when it comes to the industrial work places like the one in Valenzuela."
Valte added that Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz already has initial reports on Kentex Manufacturing engaging the services of a subcontractor that is not registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). (READ: Kentex offers fire victims 'negligible' compensation)
Baldoz earlier described the owners of Kentex as "immoral," accusing them of worker exploitation by breaking employment laws meant to guarantee minimum salaries, pensions, and social security.
The labor chief said that representatives of both Kentex Manufacturing and the sub-contractor CJC Manpower Services have been summoned to a special meeting with the DOLE on Monday, May 18.
In the interview, Valte added that Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was also making sure that the Fire Code – through the BFP – is properly implemented, with necessary permits issued based on compliance with fire and building codes.
The special inter-agency task force, including members from the national police, the fire-fighting service, the justice and health departments, have been given two weeks to finish their investigation, said spokesman Renato Marcial.
"Definitely, if someone deserves to be punished, they will be punished," he told Agence France-Presse.
The fire started when sparks from a welder repairing a metal gate apparently ignited nearby chemicals.
Marcial said that Kentex should have secured a special permit for such a dangerous welding job and its owners could face charges for safety lapses.
This could range from 6 months to 6 years in jail but the scale of the fatalities could result in more stringent punishment, he saud.
Marcial said the investigation will be "complete, thorough and based on scientific findings." – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com