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House panel to hold hearing on Valenzuela factory fire on Wednesday


The House Committee on Labor and Employment will hold a hearing on occupational safety bills on May 20, a week after a factory fire in Valenzuela left 72 workers dead. 
 
"This horrific incident should serve as an eye-opener for all employers to be mindful of the safety of their employees at all times," Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, committee chairman, said in a statement to media. 
 
"I cannot understand the reason for the high number of casualties despite the alleged existence of fire exits. It should be worthy to find out if the best practices in occupational safety are observed by factories like Kentex [Manufacturing Corp.]," he said, referring to the factory owner, whom the Labor department has already said violated the Labor Code by doing business with an unregistered subcontractor.
 
He said that the committee will look into Kentex's supposed compliance with occupational safety standards. "Kung ganoon bakit ang daming namatay? Something is really not right here and we will definitely seek out the truth."
 
Nograles said he will push for marathon hearings to tackle the following bills on workplace safety:
 
  • House Bill 2226 – Criminalizing non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards authored by  Diwa party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay Villar.
  • House Bill 2471 – Providing uniform warnings on personal protective equipment for occupational use which was authored by Marikina Rep. Marcelino Teodoro.
  • House Bill 4594 – Institutionalizing occupational health and safety of workers in the construction industry that was authored by Nograles.
  • House Bill 4635 – Imposing strict compliance through mandatory inspection and providing penalties for violations of occupational safety and health provisions of the Labor Code, amending for the purpose PD 442, as amended authored by  Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi De Jesus.
 
The Senate Committee on Labor, Employment & Human Resources Development has yet to schedule its own hearings.
 
"Depending on how the criminal and administrative investigations undertaken by the police and the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) turn out, Congress may have to also look into things with a view towards remedial legislation," Sen. Sonny Angara, acting chairman of the committee, told GMA News Online in a text message on Saturday. — RT/JDS, GMA News
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