Gabriela Women’s Party is pushing for an immediate and independent investigation over the huge fire that gutted the House Technology Industries (HTI) factory at the Cavite Economic Processing Zone in Rosario. We fear that hundreds of workers were charred to death given the operating capacity of the factory at the time of the conflagration. But media reports and Cavite’s provincial capitol indicate only injuries and not deaths.
We demand that HTI, its subcontractors, ecozone officials, labor department officials, and the local government of Cavite be upfront to the public and stop downplaying what could probably be the worst factory fire in the country’s history. It is enraging that Cavite Governor Boying Remulla seemed to be more concerned of the fire’s property damage than the number of lives lost. Up to now, there is still no official count of total casualties and injuries from the fire that could be much worse than the Kentex tragedy in 2015 in terms of extent and probably of body count.
We are angry at how thousands of workers were left to deal with the huge fire without sufficient occupational health and safety equipment. The HTI factory fire should not be called as just another accident. Industrial fires are the result of deliberate neglect of workers’ welfare and scrimping on workers’ health and safety to generate immense profits.
The HTI factory fire is yet another reminder of how economic zones in the country have become corporate fiefdoms insulated from the jurisdiction of local government and even of the national government. It is in this light that the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995, which should be at least be reviewed.
House Bill 64, the consolidated bill on occupational health and safety which Gabriela has consistently pushed, has already been transmitted to the Senate. We urge our senators to act swiftly on the counterpart measure and legislate stronger penalties for companies involved in occupational disasters such as Kentex and HTI fires.
We support initiatives of independent workers’ groups and women’s groups to conduct an on-site investigation on the horrible factory fire. In fact, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas today traveled to Rosario to personally assess the magnitude of the fire and to lead several groups in penetrating the exclusive economic zone.
We will file a House resolution on the matter and urge the House Committee on Labor and Employment to summon government officials and company officials over the factory fire. #