DOLE revokes agreements with PEZA following NCCC Mall fire

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Jan) — Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III has revoked agreements signed with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to reacquire its functions to inspect establishments operating within the economic zones in the country on their compliance with labor standards.

Bello told reporters Saturday that no less than President Rodrigo Duterte gave the green light to the revocation of the two PEZA-DOLE memoranda of agreement signed in March 2006 and June 2016 after the NCCC Mall Davao fire incident that killed 38 workers – 37 call center agents and one key custodian of the mall.

Thirty eight workers, 37 of them call center agents, were killed during the December 23, 2017 fire in the NCCC Mall Davao along Matina corner Ma-a, Davao City. MindaNews photo taken on January 8, 2018 by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

He said the 2016 agreement relegated from DOLE to PEZA the function to conduct technical safety inspection, covering labor, occupational and health standards of the establishments under PEZA’s jurisdiction while the 2006 agreement covers the joint enforcement of labor law standards and maintenance of industrial peace and conduct of labor education program.

Bello said DOLE no longer had authority over the PEZA-accredited 4,000-square meter business process outsourcing facility occupied by the Survey Sampling International (SSI) at the NCCC Mall Davao since it started operations in July 2008.

The labor secretary wrote PEZA director general Charito Plaza on January 12, informing her that he is revoking the agreements DOLE signed with PEZA because the Labor Code of the Philippines gives DOLE the primary mandate over enforcement of labor laws and standards.

Bello also ordered DOLE’s regional offices to further intensify the “inspection of all establishments to strictly enforce general law standards, occupational safety and health standards, technical safety standards as well as the right of workers to security of tenure.”

He said DOLE will also recommend to amend the charters of all the PEZA-accredited economic zones in the country, including that of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Clark Development Corporation, Bataan Export Processing Zone, Mactan Economic Zone, and Cagayan Special Economic Zone.

He said this will allow the department to reacquire its mandate to inspect and ensure security of tenure of all workers in all establishments inside the economic zones.

He said DOLE is planning to hire additional 2,000 inspectors this year to boost its inspection mechanism, and to ensure who among the companies have regularized their contractual workers.

The country has only 570 at present, 22 of them in the Davao Region, he said.

Bello said at least 300,000 contractual workers will be regularized this year while 160,000 workers had been regularized in 2017.

He said they have required all business establishments in the country to submit a list of their employees and nature of their employment.

“If you could only promise me that you will regularize 10 percent of your employees every year, after 10 years all of them will be regularized or after term of the President Rodrigo R. Duterte, 60 percent of employees will be regular until we finally achieve the total regularization of all employees in the business establishments in the country,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)