Cement plant in Surigao extends suspension of operations

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/21 November) – Cash-strapped Pacific Cement Company Inc. (PACEMCO) has decided to extend the suspension of its plant operations for three months to complete the ongoing negotiations for the infusion of funds needed to re-operate the plant.

According to the company notice to all its employees dated November 15, 2014 a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews Thursday morning, the extension started on November 7 and will end on February 6 next year.

“During this period of work suspension, management has committed to respect the benefits of the employees which are clearly spelled in the minutes of the conciliation conference held at the office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary on November 14, 2014,” said Inocencio R. Cortes, executive vice-president of PACEMCO.

“As a result of this declared extended work-suspension, all employees are hereby advised not to report to the main plant site or the Port site as the case may be, as well as to those in the head office in Makati City, effective November 17, 2014 and until further notice,” he added.

PACEMCO’s plant is located in Barangay Quezon, Surigao City.

The firm halted operations last May 5, 2014 after the Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative cut its power supply for unsettled obligations worth at least P25 million.

“The management assures everyone, that it is doing its utmost best to expedite every conceivable way to allow a new hope for Pacific Cement Philippines especially to its employees,” Cortes said.

Edwin Batac, union president of Pacemco Mamumuong Nagkahiusa said the company has a total of 343 employees who were on forced leave after the company stopped its operations.

Batac, who personally spoke with PACEMCO president and chief executive officer Jose Ramon V. Cortes during the conciliation conference last Saturday at DOLE office in Manila with Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, said the company is financially drained.

“He said sorry to us for the reason that the company is facing a financial problem,” Batac told MindaNews in an interview Thursday.

Batac said that during the period of three months all workers shall enjoy the terms and conditions of employment and Collective Bargaining Agreement benefits prior to the suspension of operations on May 5, 2014 and during the six month suspension of operations.

“And the company shall pay the salary of the workers from November 7, 2014 until the issuance by the management of the Notice of Extension to suspend operation with DOLE,” he said.

Early this month, PACEMCO workers stage a series of rallies in front of the plant site.

PACEMCO, the sole cement company in the Caraga Region, is the only remaining Filipino-owned and controlled cement company in the country. It started commercial operations in 1967.

The company produced 500,000 to 700,000 bags of cement per month. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)