23 factories near Kentex unsafe
President Aquino on Monday directed the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to inspect more than 300,000 factories in Metro Manila, stressing the need to prevent a repeat of the fire that destroyed a rubber slipper factory and killed 72 workers in Valenzuela City on May 13.
The President issued a directive after learning that at least 23 other factories in Valenzuela City had not been following fire safety regulations.
Aquino gave BFP inspection teams two to three months to do their job, focusing on the factories’ strict adherence to fire safety regulations.
During a news conference in Malacañang, the President also directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to complete as soon as possible the investigation of the fire at Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela City and file criminal and administrative charges against all those liable for the blaze that cost the lives of 72 workers.
The President was apparently referring to, among other people, the owners and officials of the rubber slipper factory that the BFP had found to have violated fire safety regulations.
Without naming names, Aquino said “certain people failed to do their duty, and we will call them to account.”
The government will press charges against those people, the President said, adding that DOJ lawyers and prosecutors would determine the charges to be brought against those responsible for the Kentex fire.
Kentex was one of 24 factories in Barrio Ugong, Valenzuela. The President said the BFP inspected the 23 other factories there and found them all to be violating fire safety regulations.
“Twenty-three out of 23 had fire safety violations. They were issued notices to comply with [fire safety] regulations,” Aquino said.
One was ordered closed for “being a virtual fire trap,” the President said.
Aquino also said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was investigating the violations of the Labor Code by the owners of Kentex.
“One of the things they need to explain is the operation of a manpower agency run by a 19-year-old student,” Aquino said, referring to CJC Manpower Corp., the Kentex subcontractor that turned out to be unregistered with the labor department.
“We will see the results of all this. The fact-finding will lead to a preliminary investigation then to the filing of charges,” the President said.
Roxas to meet mayors
On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas will meet with Metro Manila mayors to “explain to them what happened and what we are doing” to prevent a repeat of the Kentex fire, Aquino said.
Citing BFP findings, the President said Kentex violated fire safety regulations by not having automatic fire sprinklers, fire detection and alarm systems, and protected fire escape.
“From 1996 to 2014, it appears they secured a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) only once, in 2012. An FSIC is a requirement [for] the issuance of a business permit… [It’s 2015 and it’s clear that they don’t have automatic fire sprinklers, no protected fire escape. It’s also unclear why they were issued an FSIC in 2012,” Aquino said.
Valenzuela City officials could be charged with violating the fire code, which prohibits the issuance of permits to operate to businesses that have not been issued FSICs.
But Valenzuela Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian, speaking at his own news conference on Monday, said the local government could not wait for the BFP to inspect all business establishments in the city before issuing them permits to operate.
Of the 15,775 businesses in the city that applied for permits last year, only 3,577, or 22.54 percent, were inspected by the BFP and 2,667, or 16.91 percent, were issued FSICs.
“What will the local government do? We will wait until all of these are inspected before we issue business permits?” Gatchalian said.
“What will happen to the local economy? And how many jobs are we talking about?” he added.
Gatchalian said the issuance of provisional business permits pending the issuance of FSICs had a “legal basis.”
He cited memorandum circulars issued by the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the BFP that authorized the issuance of provisional business permits pending the issuance of FSICs.
The 2012 city ordinance for the issuance of provisional business permits was based on those directives, Gatchalian said.–With a report from Rima Granali
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