Probe of Cavite factory fire starts

Published by reposted only Date posted on February 4, 2017

Department of Labor and Employment sees no need to suspend HTI’s operations while investigation continues

By: Julie M. Aurelio, Maricar Cinco, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb 04, 2017

The fire that hit a Japanese-factory in the Cavite Economic Zone in General Trias town was put out on Friday afternoon, 46 hours after it broke out on Wednesday night.

Local officials said the investigation of the fire at a three-story building of House Technologies Inc. (HTI) could proceed after Senior Supt. Sergio Soriano Jr., chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region, declared the fire out at 4:15 p.m.

Government records showed 126 people were injured in the fire.

Cavite Gov. Jesus Crispin Remulla and Charito Plaza, director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, said all workers had been accounted for on Friday.

“We’re expecting there won’t be any [fatality],” Plaza said in a telephone interview from Davao City on Friday.

Remulla and Plaza, in separate interviews, said investigators could enter the premises and check whether there were fatalities after the BFP declared the fire out.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) can still investigate the incident even without a suspension of HTI’s operations.

Bello did not give a deadline for the conduct of the investigation and inspection, noting that the the situation is “very volatile.”

“Our Dole inspectors and and engineers will go there to do their assessment,” Bello said.

Citing data from the Dole regional office in Calabarzon, Bello said 30 workers are still confined at Divine Grace Medical Center and 14 at General Trias Medical Center.

Two workers are in critical condition at Divine Grace Medical Center.

An official of a labor group, however, said at least six HTI employees claimed that some of their colleagues were trapped on the building’s third floor as fire razed the factory.

Daisy Arago, executive director of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, said her group conducted an initial fact-finding into the fire that started as workers were leaving and coming in time for the night shift.

Arago said these employees were interviewed in their boarding houses in communities around the economic zone.

“They said the fire spread too quickly, like in about two minutes, and it was just impossible for everyone to get out,” she said.

“The survivors said there were exits—one leading to (the economic zone’s) Gate 3 and the other toward Gate 5,” Arago said, quoting from the initial results of her group’s investigation.

HTI, a subsidiary of the House Research and Development Group of Companies, manufactures prefabricated houses and home fixtures.

It employs around 13,000 workers. Between 6,000 and 7,000 employees work per shift.

When the fire broke out, Plaza said many employees had already gone out while those reporting for the night shift were barred from entering the building.

Earlier, the Dole assured the affected workers of financial and livelihood assistance worth P30,000, plus a 10-day emergency employment program for the displaced workers.

Bureau of Local Employment Director Dominique Tutay said HTI has assured its employees that they can go back to work in a month’s time.

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