Press Release
May 20, 2015


Senator Sonny Angara is calling for the review of occupational safety and health policies in the country in the wake of the tragic factory fire in Valenzuela City which claimed the lives of at least 72 workers.

"The Labor Department said Kentex Manufacturing Corporation passed the Labor Law Compliance System just last year and yet, initial reports after the fire immediately found pertinent labor violations of Kentex. If proper occupational health and safety standards were really followed to prevent or mitigate the impact of these kinds of accident, we will not be mourning this massive loss of lives," said Angara, acting chairman of the committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

"The purpose of the review would be to see if updating of labor laws is necessary or if enforcement of current laws is adequate. We must ensure that government agencies whether at the national or local level have the capacities to enforce such laws," he added.

According to reports, welding job that was being carried out close to inflammable chemicals ignited the fire and trapped workers on the second floor behind steel bar-enclosed windows with no viable fire exit, leaving them to die of suffocation.

After conducting a mandatory conference on Monday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) discovered that aside from engaging the services of a non-DOLE registered subcontractor, Kentex underpaid its workers, failed to remit their SSS and PhilHealth contributions and enforced illegal salary deductions.

"I urge the Labor Department to strictly enforce its compliance order against Kentex and the illegal subcontractor CJC Manpower Services to compel them to grant the survivors and the victims' families their benefits and monetary entitlements. The government should ensure that the families of victims are provided for especially the orphaned children," Angara said.

The lawmaker also joined the calls for justice for the victims of Kentex to make sure that people who clearly violated labor laws would be held accountable.

"We've conducted a hearing last February on various bills seeking to amend and strengthen our occupational safety and health policies. I support these measures and I think it is high time for the Congress to pass a law that would impose stricter penalties and criminalize non-compliance to safety standards," he said.

The senator cited a 2006 report by the Occupational Safety and Health Center which shows that 90 percent of the Philippine workforce do not enjoy favorable working conditions and are exposed to chemicals and substandard equipment and tools and unhygienic working environment.

"We can't afford to lose another life due to negligent employers who choose not to comply with safety standards. The welfare and protection of our workers should be our prime concern so as to prevent worksite accidents like this from happening again," he added.

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