Manila Pavilion fire claims 6th victim

THE deaths in the Manila Pavilion fire last weekend reached six on Wednesday when another employee of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. working at the hotel and casino passed away.

Pagcor identified the latest victim as Jennelyn Figueroa, 28, an internal security staff stationed at the hotel in the Ermita district that burned down on Sunday morning.

Figueroa was brought to the Manila Doctor’s Hospital, which initially reported her as dead, then clarified that they were able to revive her, radio dzBB reported.

The Pagcor employee eventually expired, joining fellow workers Billy de Castro, Edilberto Braga Evangelista, Marilyn Omadto, John Mark Sabido and Joe Cris Sabido on the list of fatalities.

This developed as Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment to “shape up” in enforcing occupational safety and health standards.

“We call on the DoLE to step up its enforcement of OSH standards. Lapses has been too many and frequent to be ignored. How many more deaths from workplace accidents do we have to endure?” said Villanueva, chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development.

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the families, friends, and relatives of the employees affected by this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time,” the senator added.

According to the Bureau of Fire Protection, individual accounts of witnesses pointed to violations on safety standards at the hotel, as some survivors lamented the sprinklers and alarm system of the 50-year-old hotel did not work. Officials of the Waterfront group that owns the Pavilion have denied these accounts.

“These testimonies substantiate the lack of compliance of the hotel on our occupational safety and health standards,” stressed Villanueva, noting 20 others were injured from the nearly 24-hour fire.

He urged the government to prioritize Senate Bill No. 1317, or “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof” that seeks to amend the Labor Code which, at present, does not declare violations of OSHS as unlawful.

“Currently, the government only gives a slap on the wrist against erring establishments, and we cannot just tolerate that kind of regulation at the expense of our workers,” said Villanueva, author and sponsor of the bill.

SB 1317 was approved on third and final reading last Feb. 19 and has been sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

The DoLE only issues a Work Stoppage Order if there is an imminent danger or would result to disabling injury, the senator noted.

“Obviously, this practice has not been successful in inculcating culture of OSH compliance nor in addressing wanton disregard of OSH standards,” Villanueva said.

Under the proposed measure, violators would be fined P100,000 daily as an administrative penalty for the erring employer for non-correction of the violation.

“What we want to address is prevention. If establishments would be strictly mandated to comply with occupational safety and health standards, incidents like this can be prevented,” Villanueva said.

“We hope that our OSHS bill would be immediately signed into law—a law that would finally give teeth to our 41-year Labor Code and would thus force establishments to comply to occupational safety and health standards,” the senator stressed.

Pagcor, meanwhile, has pledged financial support for the families of its employees who died in the fire.

BFP investigators are expected to return to the hotel to continue their probe into the incident.

Topics: Manila Pavilion , Labor Code , Bureau of Fire Protection , Joel Villanueva , Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp ,
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