27 August 2009

Solons note improvement in Hanjin safety, but want more

Members of the House Committee on Labor and Employment have expressed appreciation for the implementation of work safety measures inside the Korean shipyard in Subic, but said they wanted to see more improvement in labor safety inside the facility.

Headed by its chairman Rep. Magtanggol Guinigundo (2nd District of Bulacan), the committee made an ocular inspection of the shipbuilding facility owned and operated by the Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. (HHIC) in Subic’s Redondo Peninsula last Wednesday.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials, who accompanied the House delegation, said the lawmakers wanted to see for themselves how workers fared at the Hanjin facility.

“The ocular visit is in connection with the on-going committee hearing to determine how safe the facility is, and to evaluate the working conditions of the workers in the Hanjin shipyard,” Guinigundo said during the inspection.

Other committee members who joined the Hanjin inspection were: Representatives Carlos Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya), Joel Maglunsod (Anak Pawis party list), Mitos Magsaysay (Zambales 1st District), Rafael Mariano (Anak Pawis), Walden Bello (Akbayan party list), Edno Joson (Balane-Kampi), Rufus
Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro 2nd District), and Monico Puentavella (Bacolod).

The lawmakers were accompanied by Director Nathaniel Lacambra of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) in Region III, Director Brenda Villafuerte of the DoLE’s Bureau of Working Conditions, and SBMA officials headed by senior deputy administrator Ramon Agregado.

The delegation was welcomed by HHIC general manager Taek Kyun Yoo, who briefed the visitors on Hanjin operations prior to the inspection tour.

According to SBMA records, a total of 19 fatal accidents have occurred in the shipyard since it started operations in 2006. The incidents had led SBMA and other government agencies to suspend Hanjin operations, as well as to blacklist some subcontractors, pending a review of safety measures at the shipyard.

During the briefing, Yoo told the congressmen that HHIC has been implementing health and safety measures that the House committee has recommended during previous hearings.

“We are happy to report to you that Hanjin Philippines is now 99.9% compliant in securing accreditation for all its health and safety personnel, and works towards the improvement of the working conditions of our workers,” he said.

Yoo also reported that the emergency clinic in the shipyard complex has been expanded to accommodate 20 beds and modern equipment, and now has four medical doctors.

The clinic is supported by an ambulance and three units of fast sea ambulances, he added.

Yoo likewise reported that the HHIC Board has approved an annual budget of P311,356,292 for the improvement of work conditions in the facility. This will also cover the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) such
gloves, shoes, over-all work suits, goggles, and helmets which are given free to workers, he added.

Rep. Bello noted, however, that despite the improvements in Hanjin’s labor safety, the implementation is still in the early stages.

“We are happy to hear and see the big improvement in the implementation of safety measures, but because they have just started doing this, there are lots more to do,” Bello added.

Rep. Magsaysay insisted, meanwhile, that despite the additional medical equipment and personnel, Hanjin should build its own hospital in the area so that full medical services would be available to the workers.

She added that doctors and nurses should be on duty at the facility on a 24-hour basis. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Members of the House Committee on Labor and Employment (from left) Representatives Magtanggol Guinigundo, Mitos Magsaysay, and Rafael Mariano arrive at the Hanjin shipyard in the Subic Bay Freeport to inspect the firm’s compliance with labor safety standards.