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Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, the company that owns the gutted two-storey slipper factory where 72 workers died, was operating without a fire safety clearance, an official of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said.
At the hearing of the House of Representatives committee on labor and employment, BFP National Capital Region officer Capt. Ian Lunas said the BFP never issued a fire safety compliance certificate to Kentex. The firm's factory in Valenzuela City began operating in 2014 up to the date of the fire incident on Wednesday last week, May 13.
“Kentex Manufacturing Corporation has no fire safety compliance certificate from the BFP for 2014 and 2015,” Lunas said.
“Sa katunayan po, kasama iyan sa initial findings ng aming isinasagawang imbestigasyon," said Lunas, who is part of the inter-agency task force investigating the gruesome Kentex fire incident.
Lunas said that on July 10, 2014, the BFP sent Kentex a “Notice to Comply” after the BFP conducted an inspection in the factory and found several fire safety violations.
“Up to this time, lumalabas po na hindi sila nag-comply,” Lunas said.
Lunas said among the fire safety violations reported by the BFP Valenzuela City was that the factory's three stairways led to the ground floor. No stairway led to the factory’s exit.
Lunas said the other violations noted by the BFP were failure to recondition the factory’s unserviceable fire extinguishers, failure to conduct fire drills, failure to conduct fire safety seminar at least twice a year, lack of fire alarm system, and lack of sprinkler system.
“Base po sa notice to comply na ipinadala ng Valenzuela Bureau of Fire Protection noong July 10 (2014), the Kentex is given 15 days to comply with the BFP recommendations to address the fire safety violation,” Lunas said.
Lunas admitted that personnel of the BFP Valenzuela City may also be held liable if it is proven that they did not try to enforce fire safety regulations after Kentex failed to comply with the July 10 notice.
Lunas said the next standard of action for a company’s failure to comply with the first warning was to send a second warning called the “Notice to Correct Violation”.
“Sa second notice po, which is the Notice to Correct Violation’, may multa na po dapat na kasama,” Lunas told the committee.
“And did the BFP take that next action?...Kasi kung ginawa ninyo ang next action, baka nakapag-comply ang Kentex,” Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Guinigundo inquired.
“That is being investigated now. Pero base po sa record namin, the last action taken (by BFP Valenzuela) was the issuance of the July 10 notice,” Lunas said.
Lunas said the inter-agency task force is also investigating how Kentex was able to secure its business permit and occupancy permit when fire safety compliance certificate is a requirement in the issuance of the two.
“If proven that there was a violation on the part of the local government of Valenzuela and the BFP, what would be the penalties?” Guinigundo asked.
Under Republic Act 9514 (Revised Fire Code of the Philippines), all erring public officials are punishable by imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than six years or fine of not more than P100,000 or both,” Lunas replied. - JJ, GMA News