MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Thursday joined calls for justice for the victims of and a deeper investigation into the fire that gutted a three-story garment store in Butuan City on Wednesday.
In a statement, Gabriela Partylist Representative Luzviminda Ilagan called on authorities to look into the establishment’s safety standards compliance, saying that lessons must be learned from the tragedy which took many lives so it would not happen again.
Seventeen out of the 22 stay-in female workers died in the pre-dawn blaze which gutted the Novo Jeans and Shirts store.
“We need to make sure that workplaces comply with safety standards and that employers who fail to do so are penalized,” she said, pointing out how such standards have long been neglected in the country and that it was about time that the Department of Labor and Employment looked into them.
Data from the Institute for Occupational Health Safety and Development (IOHSAD) showed that 126 workers in the country died in work-related accidents last year (three work-related deaths per week).
Ilagan said one of the rules in the Philippine Occupational Health and Standards (OHSS) was the need to have “at least two exits every floor and basement capable of clearing the work area in five minutes.”
She asked whether the Novo Jeans and Garments store complied with the requirement and whether the “Department of Labor (is) aware if safety standards are met by employers and whether how many workers’ lives are actually at risk with this neglect of workers’ safety?”
She mentioned the protests which stemmed from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire which killed 145 women workers in New York back in 1911, paving the way for the annual commemoration of International Women Workers’ Day, and said that Gabriela hoped workers would band together and urge the government to provide laborers with protection from such tragedies.