SSI to resume operations in 60 days

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Jan) – The president of Information Communications Technology (ICT) Council in Davao said Survey Sampling International (SSI) plans to resume and expand its Davao operations in 60 days after being hampered for a few weeks now due to the NCCC Mall Davao fire incident last December 23.

Samuel Matunog said the company would look for alternative spaces in the city where they can transfer their operations and reabsorb almost 500 employees displaced by the fire incident that killed 37 of its workers and one employee of the NCCC mall Davao.

“Our concern in the industry is the bulk of the workers are there. They just need to relocate to another location. We have the obligation to take care of the livelihood of the remainder,” he said.

He added the SSI, which had been operating since July 2008 on the fourth floor of the NCCC Mall Davao, would expand its number of workers to 600 if they can reopen soon in another location.

Matunog said the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry has expressed concern over the potential compensation losses worth P97 million annually that “could have been ploughed back to the local economy.”

“It’s a substantial decrease. It’s an element that we have to consider,” he added.

Matunog added the council has offered SSI alternative locations that are accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

In a statement, the Research Now SSI has vowed to support the employees, including the families of the fire victims, and explores “avenues to provide them with employment.”

The company said they have raised $115,000 (P5.8 million) for families of the fire victims and is now making preparations to release the funds.

“Our Davao employees have shown incredible resiliency and strength in the wake of the tragedy. We are committed to helping sustain them as members of our global company and as part of the Research Now SSI family,” said Gary S. Laben, chief executive officer.

Fire Supt. Jerry Candido, the Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force deputy team leader and spokesperson, said that the NCCC Mall Davao and SSI failed to comply with fire safety requirements, which led to the death of 38 workers who were trapped inside the four-story building.

Candido said that the establishments did not comply with the fire suppression requirement after investigators found lapses in the setup of the mall’s fire alarm, sprinkler system, and fire exits.

Matunog added they would review the emergency procedures, most especially in responding to fire emergency procedures, as he acknowledged what the BPOs have adopted are “not sufficient” and did not anticipate that fire “was also as serious.”

“We have realized we will have to review our emergency procedures, especially in so far as fire is concerned because you really do not know what you are preparing for,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)