MANILA — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Thursday reassumed the responsibility of ensuring strict enforcement of labor laws and standards, including technical standards, in enterprises within the economic zones.
This, after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III decided to revoke the agreement between the agency and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) allowing the latter to inspect establishments in export zones.
The move comes after a series of fire incidents that razed various establishments in such areas.
In his letter to PEZA Director General Charito Plaza, the DOLE chief cited the delegated authority in the conduct of technical safety inspection was withdrawn “…given that enforcement of labor laws and standards is the primary mandate of DOLE.”
“We are mainly responsible to ensure the occupational safety and health standards in various establishments and companies through our visitorial and enforcement powers vested in us by the Labor Code. We should not be passing on this responsibility to PEZA or other agencies,” Bello said in a statement.
The revocation of the agreements signed in March 2006 and June 2016 followed fire incidents at the HTI Cavite Economic Zone last February 2017 which killed 5 workers and injuring more than 100 workers, and at the NCCC Mall in Davao City resulting to the death of 37 call center workers.
Following the Cavite fire, the DOLE created an investigation team to determine the compliance of HTI on occupational safety and health standards.
The company was later found to have committed multiple violations of general labor standards and safety regulations, contrary to the investigation report conducted by PEZA.
The incident has prompted the DOLE to create a technical working group tasked to review the agreement signed between the labor department and PEZA, particularly on the inspection of labor and occupational safety and health standards.
In the aftermath of the Davao fire, President Rodrigo Duterte has given Bello the go-signal for the revocation of DOLE-PEZA agreements.
At the same time, the DOLE chief clarified that they would maintain its partnership with PEZA in the promotion of industrial harmony in the economic zones pursuant to Republic Act 7916. (PNA)