An arson investigator examines the inside of the gutted footwear factory on Thursday. Photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters
MANILA - The owners of the slippers factory gutted by a massive blaze on Wednesday, resulting to the deaths of 72 workers, insisted that they have been complying with fire safety regulations.
Speaking to radio dzMM on Friday, Atty. Renato Paraiso, legal counsel of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., said they have passed all fire safety requirements of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
"We're very compliant naman. Kumpleto po kami dun sa mga documentations required," Paraiso said. "Yung BFP certification, naman nandiyan po... The BFP also acknowledged the fact that there's a certificate of fire safety po."
Results of an initial probe into the factory fire, which erupted after a welding equipment allegedly produced sparks and ignited chemicals stored nearby, revealed that there were no sprinklers in the two-storey building and that the facility was overcrowded.
Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, who was among those who visited the site of the deadly blaze, also said the building's only fire exit was locked when the fire broke out.
The factory's windows were also boarded up with grills and wire mesh, which, a worker said, preventing those trapped inside from escaping.
But according to Paraiso, they did not think that the grills on the windows were a fire hazard, noting that the BFP did not order them to remove the grills when it inspected their building.
"Kung ito po'y sa tingin nila naging isang fire hazard or safety hazard, ipapaalis po nila sa amin at kami naman po'y magko-comply. The mere fact po na nag-inspect sila, hindi nila pinaalis, we assume na kasama po sa standard or despite that fact, naging compliant naman po kami," he said.
Paraiso promised that the company will provide assistance to all the bereaved families of the victims as well as the workers injured in the fire.
"Our regular employees saka yung mga contractual employees namin through our agencies, hindi na ho namin dini-differentiate. Pare-pareho namin silang tutulungan, pare-pareho ho silang makakatanggap ng mga ayuda," he said.
He also assured that they have been remitting their workers' contributions to the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG.
"Yung mga records ho namin kasama sa nasunog... May mga independent records ho kami, iko-collate ho namin yan tapos hihingi po kami ng sertipikasyon dun sa SSS, Pag-IBIG at PhilHealth regarding sa remittances po ng mga contribution po namin," he said.
The company will also shoulder the expenses for the identification of the charred bodies retrieved from the fire-gutted factory building in Valenzuela City, he added.
The lawyer, however, said: "Hindi ho namin sinasabing may pananagutan ho kami."
Meanwhile, the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines on Friday said it is deeply saddened by the incident and expressed sympathy to the families of the 72 workers killed, most of whom were young women and men.
"The Delegation of the European Union is concerned about the news that poor labour conditions, including the lack of proper safety standards might have contributed to the shocking high number of victims of this tragedy," it said.
It said it welcomes the investigation launched by authorities to determine the cause of the tragic factory fire.
"The Delegation also welcomes the governments' determination to ensure strict compliance of all factories across the country with occupational safety and health standards, in line with international labour standards including International Labour Organisation conventions." -- With a report from dzMM