25 August 2008

SBMA probes 18 Hanjin contractors

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)has started investigating the subcontractors of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Philippines Inc. in the wake of workers’ deaths inside the shipyard of the Korean company in this Freeport.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the agency’s investigation of the latest death at the shipyard, involving Efren de la Cruz who was electrocuted on Aug. 12 while working at Hanjin’s motor pool, yielded a troubling pattern among the subcontractors.

“In all the deaths, the common problem is that these workers were not wearing, or did not have, their safety gear or PPEs (personal protective equipment). Either they
were not given any, or they weren’t using it for some reason,” said Arreza.

De la Cruz, hired by Hanjin subcontractor Unicorn T (UT) Corp., died before reaching the San Marcelino Hospital. He was the 15th worker reported to have died while working at the shipyard. On Aug. 7, Arvy Mahinay, 19, who was employed by Hanjin subcontractor Bodahh Inc., died when he fell from a roof while retrieving his helmet that was blown off by the wind.

Poor judgment

In a statement, the SBMA said De la Cruz was electrocuted while working at the shipyard’s motor pool. He and four other workers were using an electricity- driven tool when the accident happened, the SBMA said.

Pyeong Jung-yu, Hanjin general manager, earlier said De la Cruz died after a heart attack. Yu said they did not report De la Cruz’s death immediately to the SBMA or the Department of Labor and Employment because he did not die in an accident.Arreza said most of the deaths could be attributed to “poor judgment on the part of the worker or workers involved in an accident and/or negligence on the part of Hanjin or its subcontractors.”

Fake papers

He said UT Corp., which is owned by a Korean, had faked its certificate of registration and tax exemption (CRTE), a document that allows them to operate within the Subic Freeport without paying duties.

“We found out that UT Corp. was using fraudulent documents while conducting our investigation into De la Cruz’s death. Also, they were not giving their workers the proper benefits, or paying their SSS (Social Security System) contributions. Plus, most of their workers did not have the proper safety gear, like De la Cruz,” he said.

The SBMA has since banned UT Corp. from doing business inside the freeport while Hanjin has terminated its contract.Arreza said the SBMA began cracking down on the subcontractors in July, after worker Benje Gamolo died that month when he was hit by
an eight-ton steel beam.At least 18 of 42 Hanjin subcontractors were either unregistered or had expired registrations, SBMA reports said.

“Without the registration, they (subcontractors) cannot work. For those subcontractors [who have] expired registrations, they can continue [operating in the free port]. [There is] automatic renewal if they have no violations,” said Arreza. (Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Northern Luzon)