By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star), Feb 12, 2017
MANILA, Philippines – A directive of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) delegating the inspection of establishments in special economic zones may be revoked.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III made the announcement on Friday as the DOLE starts its own investigation into a fire that gutted a factory of the House Technology Industries Ltd. (HTI) at the Cavite Export Processing Zone in General Trias City in Cavite last week. Two of more than a hundred workers who were injured had died.
Bello was referring to DOLE Order 131 allowing establishments under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to “voluntarily” undergo labor inspection.
“We will review and possibly revoke that order. It is the duty of the department to ensure occupational safety. It cannot be waived,” he said.
Bello also cited a memorandum of agreement between DOLE and PEZA delegating technical safety inspection.
He said companies in ecozones should not be exempted from inspection by DOLE.
“It is incumbent on the department to make sure that companies comply with occupational safety and health standards,” he said.
Bello ordered a parallel probe into the fire that hit HTI to determine if the firm complied with occupational safety and health standards as well as related rules and regulations.
He issued Administrative Order 32 creating an investigating panel led by DOLE undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.
The heads of the DOLE office in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Occupational Safety and Health Center as well as the Bureaus of Working Conditions, Local Employment and Workers with Special Concerns are the other members of the panel.
The panel is tasked to come up with a comprehensive report of its investigation on Feb. 17.
HTI, a manufacturing firm, has 10,892 workers.