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10 December 2008

Subic Board ssues ban on subcontractor, Hanjin spared from suspension

The board of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has banned a subcontractor of the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction but spared the Korean shipyard owner, HHIC Philippines Inc., from suspension despite the death of 17 Filipino workers at the facility in Subic Bay Freeport since 2006.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said the board reached this decision in a meeting on Friday.

The certification of registration and tax exemption (CRTE) of contractor Philnorkor was cancelled because the number of workers killed at its job site had totaled two, the latest being Jose Vener Gil on Nov. 26.

P10,000 fine

He said the CRTEs issued by the SBMA to HHIC’s 39 subcontractors imposed a fine of P10,000 for the first offense and a cancellation of the CRTE for the second offense.

Arreza said the death of Gil, 42, was a result of the “negligence on the part of Philnorkor.” Gil died after a 250-kg air-conditioning unit fell on him as he was unshackling its duct, an HHIC report said.

2nd shipyard

“[Philnorkor] cannot anymore operate at the [Subic Bay Freeport],” Arreza said. Philnorkor could not be reached for comments.

The firm’s contract involved the construction of warehouses and sheds at the second shipyard of the HHIC Philippines Inc. on the freeport’s Redondo Peninsula. The cancellation of Philnorkor’s CRTE was effective Friday, Arreza said.

The board directed the HHIC, deemed to be the general contractor, to submit a compliance report on safety and labor standards.

“It’s not also fair to suspend HHIC because the negligence was not on its part,” Arreza said when asked why the board did not issue a cease and desist order on the Korean firm.

In July the SBMA issued a cease-and-desist order on HHIC following the death of a worker and injuries on four others at the construction site.

Contrast

The board’s Friday decision appeared in contrary to the July decision even though the two had similar circumstances.

Noel de Mesa, president of the Shipbuilding and Construction Workers Association, assailed the decisions of the SBMA board, saying the agency’s poor enforcement work on HHIC and HHIC Philippines Inc. “opens more Filipino workers to job-related risks or deaths.”

Sen. Pia Cayetano has not backed out of her plan to call for an investigation by the Senate labor committee to study the accountability of the Korean firms, SBMA and the Department of Labor and Employment in the deaths of the workers.

Prior to the work-related deaths, several workers have been reported stricken with malaria during the early stages of the construction of the Hanjin shipyard, which boasts of employing at least 8,000 workers. (Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon)

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