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Welding job near combustible chemicals approved by Kentex secretary –welder

The welder blamed for last week's deadly fire in a slipper factory in Valenzuela City said he had the go signal to work on the warehouse's door, a report on “24 Oras” said Monday.

The welder, identified as Oscar Romero, said the go signal came from the secretary of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, the report said, citing his extrajudicial confession.

A GMA News source revealed that the extrajudicial confession stated that Romero, a welder-leadman of Ace Shutter Corporation, was tasked to fix the roll-up door of Kentex factory's main entrance.

His team arrived at the warehouse at 10:21 a.m. with driver Nino Divino Provido and helper Wilmer Arinal Ras.

Before starting his work, the welder asked Josie, a secretary of Kentex, what were inside the sacks beside the door to ensure that the place was safe for welding.

"Nagpaalam po ako sa secretary na si Josie. Tinanong ko po sa kanya kung ano ba ang laman ng mga sako na nasa tabi ng pintuan. Sabi po sa akin ni Josie pwede na ako magsimula na mag-welding dahil tinabingan naman ng trapal 'yung mga sako," Romero stated.

Given the go signal, he started working on the door. But just a few minutes after he began welding, the sacks exploded. It was later reported that they contained the flammable chemical azodicarbonamide, which is commonly used as a blowing agent to expand rubber.

Romero, Provido, and Ras were able to run toward safety after the explosion that later caused the fire that left 72 workers dead, 69 of them burned beyond recognition.

A lawyer from Ace Shutter Corporation backed up Romero's statement.

"Kinonfirm sa mga welders na walang dangerous or flammable materials, kung kaya't nagsimula silang magtrabaho. Hindi nagkulang 'yung mga welder," said lawyer John Caluso.

Meanwhile, Northern Police District-Police Community Relations branch chief Supt. Ariel Fulo pointed out that the welder's confession should be supported by other evidence.

"Of course mahalaga ang statement ng isang tao... Kaya lang, kinakailangan patunayan pa rin ito ng other evidence para ma-sustain, ma-substantiate 'yung testimonial evidence," he said in the report. —Trisha Macas/KBK/KG, GMA News