On the House Technology Industries (HTI) Factory Fire
(Excerpts from the Full Report of the National Fact-Finding Mission Held on February 4-5, 2017)
On February 1, 2017, at around 6 PM, a fire broke inside the premises of the three-storey building owned by HTI. Accounts from the workers indicated that between 1,000-2,000 workers were inside the building at that time. Some of the workers were about to leave HTI and some were coming in for their shift.
Authorities declared the fire under control on February 2 at 12:30 PM. However, the building continued to emit heavy smoke flames again by 7 PM until about past 11 PM. By February 3, BFP Region IV-A Director Sergio Soriano officially declared “fire out.” On February 4, the Governor of Cavite said that there were no fatalities, only the 126 workers injured and that all employees have been accounted for.
On February 2, CTUHR, IOHSAD, EILER and KMU dispatched a Quick Response Team and initial fact-finding Mission in the area to check on the situation. Cavite-based organizations also joined and kept a round-the clock incident monitoring until the morning of February 4. Interviews with HTI workers in surrounding communities were conducted, and all of the respondents remarked that many were trapped and presumed dead inside the burning building, contrary to the prior announcement of Cavite Governor Boying Remulla. Workers’ and witnesses claims prompted a much broader NFFM on February 4 and 5.
Conclusions and Recommendations
- The Cavite LGU, PEZA and the Bureau of Fire Protection had all admitted that a thorough investigation has not been conducted on the fire incident, despite the strong allegations that many could have been trapped inside the burning building. Cavite Governor Remulla has also announced a clearing operation even if no thorough investigation has been started nor in the beginning of admission that SOCO and BFP has not really gone to inspect every nook of the burnt buildings.
- Suspicions of cover-up is increasing as full disclosure of workers particularly those hired by the six manpower agencies had not been done. Contractual workers claim that even in normal circumstances, agency-hired workers are not counted or considered HTI workers.
- In an environment with light, inflammable materials and combustible chemicals, why is it that there were no sprinklers and other fire safety measures to contain the fire? Why is a building considered compliant, when it does not follow the mandated numbers of fire exits? Has the Bureau of Fire Protection factored this in their investigation in dismissing the workers’ claims that no one was trapped?
- Based on the very detailed accounts of the workers with regard to the building’s entry and exit points, did those spaces and passageways meet the requirements stipulated under the Fire Code and the National Building Code for structure with more than 500 occupants (HTI employs thousands of workers at a given time)? Was the width and height faithful to the standards set by the law to allow safe movement of people, especially for places where there are highly combustible materials? Is the number of safety officers who should have been on-duty compliant as well.
- There were more women working in the Quality Control in the 3rd floor including a pregnant woman who jumped out from the 3rd floor window and more possibly trapped. From the reported 126 workers injured brought to hospital, the NFFM looked and pursued the list supplied by Divine Grace Medical Center and the General Trias Hospital posted outside the hospital building and from other hospital that were publicized, there were 25 women.
The NFFM can’t help but ask, where were those women workers? What happened to that pregnant woman? The distance from the ground floor to the third floor is high, as vertical clearance alone from the 1st to the 2nd floor, where containers are brought in, is estimated to about 18 feet (5.49 meters) high.
Given these very crucial questions, NFFM believed that those interviewed have all the reasons to believe Gov. Remulla’s claim that everyone was accounted for.
Having said the above, the NFFM recommends the following:
- Immediate, transparent, thorough, independent and impartial investigation on the HTI tragedy free from intervention by the HTI management, PEZA and Cavite LGU to lend credence to the result. To the very least, the investigation must pave way for full and complete disclosure of casualties so that justice can find its course.
- A review of the company’s Certificate of Compliance vis-a-vis the National Building Code, Fire Code and the Fire Protection and Control under Occupational Safety and Health Standards of 1989, and to hold accountable all those responsible for the fire tragedy.
- A full disclosure of HTI workers hired through the agencies, complete list of workers accounted for, and complete examination to find out if the agencies are accredited by DOLE since they exhibit Labor Only Contracting practices.
- Repeal Department Order 131-13 and implement the mandatory, strict and frequent safety inspection of all establishments by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Results of the inspection should be approved by the genuine representative of the workers and presented to the public immediately. The inspecting authorities should take measures against companies concealing their safety standards.
- Support the immediate passage of the Worker’s SHIELD (Safety and Health Inspection and Employer’s Liability Decree) as it is a big leap towards the mandatory inspection of all establishments.
- End the anti-union discrimination, promote and respect the workers right to freedom of association not only to represent workers in their workplaces but serves as monitors for OSH standards implementation;
- Review and amend, and when necessary repeal the Special Economic Zone Act of 1994 that grants authority to economic zones to operate under independent charter, and to function independently away from scrutiny of government agencies and the general public and act like separate entity, i.e. a government with separate labor laws and regulations.
See full report here: http://ctuhr.org/hti-nffm-fina lreport/