'Kentex owners still in PH'

By Robertzon Ramirez, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 26 2015 09:05 AM | Updated as of May 26 2015 05:09 PM

MANILA - The daughter of one of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. owners has assured the government that the businessmen are still in the Philippines, contrary to some reports that they have fled the country.

Barbara Ang, daughter of Kentex shareholder Veato Ang, said her father and his business partners have no plans of leaving the country despite the razing of the Valenzuela slipper factory, which killed 72 workers on May 13.

Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian also stood by his promise to punish any local official who issued the business permit to Kentex even without a fire safety inspection clearance.

He reiterated though that the local government followed national guidelines in issuing the permit and that local officials did their responsibilities based on the laws and circular guidelines.

In a separate interview, Barbara said all the Kentex owners will face their responsibilities to the families of the 72 workers who perished in the fire.

“The owners are not leaving the country because some are saying that my father and some of the owners are no longer in the country. We are all here and nobody left,” she reiterated.

On Friday, Barbara personally apologized to the families of the fire victims, re-assuring them that the owners of Kentex are not shirking from their responsibilities.

She also asked for understanding, claiming that the owners are doing everything they can to help the families recover from their losses.

“We, too, are grieving. This is the darkest hour, times of our lives,” she said, explaining why it took days before they extended assistance to the families.

Government agencies are now looking into the May-13 fire at Kentex’s slipper factory in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela. Among the violations found are job contracting, below-minimum wages, lack of adequate fire exits and lack of fire alarm systems.

Gatchalian said liable local officers must be punished for the incident reminiscent of Quezon City’s Ozone Disco fire, which claimed 162 lives in 1996. Investigators found then that most of the dead were trapped near an exit door that only opened inward.

“I think all the local and national agencies say those responsible must be punished and city hall is also taking that position,” he told The STAR when asked if he will relieve the official or officials responsible for the permits.

“We followed the national circulars. We didn’t do anything wrong with the procedures, we followed the procedures they set forth. We didn’t violate any procedure that were not given to us,” Gatchalian said, adding that the local government will wait for the investigation to wrap up.

Lawyer Renchi May Padayao, officer-in-charge of Valenzuela’s Business Permits and Licensing Office, said they are “institutionalizing a post-audit system processing” to streamline all business processing activities, a scheme that allows a post-audit inspection after the release of permit.

“With the mandate that we have, especially the mandate from the BFP (Bureau of Fire Protection) itself, after the release of the business permit they should inspect the establishment within three days. They also have the mandatory inspection two to three months in advance of the (permit) renewal,” she explained.

Padayao also said that the former secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had previously issued a memorandum requiring those in charge to furnish the local government a “negative list” to identify establishments to be issued a business permit and those whose permits are to be revoked.

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