Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, June 22, 2008

SBMA orders closure of Hanjin construction

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines -- The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Friday issued a cease and desist order against the construction arm of a Korean shipbuilding company in this free port, two hours after a third worker died in its work site in nine days.

The death of Mario Atrero, 52, a worker at the Hanjin Construction Corp. Ltd. (HCCL), construction arm of the Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Philippines Inc., brought to 12 the number of work-related deaths at the facility since it began operations in 2006.

Most of the casualties in earlier accidents, according to Hanjin officials, were hired by their subcontractors.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer learned, however, that Atrero was directly under the employ of HCCL.

"The [safety] situation at the shipyard has become alarming," SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said.

He said the SBMA served the order against HCCL at 6 p.m. Friday, two hours after Atrero was killed when he was hit by a steel frame that collapsed due to strong winds.

Four other workers, whom the SBMA identified as Joel Alido, Darvin Silva, David Alcayaga and Leody Abad, all residents of Zambales, were hurt in the accident.

Last week, two workers died in separate worksite accidents.

On June 11, worker Rafael Careg died when the pickup truck he was riding on was hit by a crane boom truck. Four days later, Oliver Labay, 32, died after a block bulkhead (ship wall) collapsed and hit him at 1:50 a.m.

The SBMA Ecology Center issued a notice of violation against the Korean firm. The SBMA also made arrangements with Hanjin to establish its own safety monitoring office at its work site.

Pyeong Jong Yu, Hanjin general manager, said his company had stopped construction operations even before the SBMA issued the cease and desist order on Friday.

"By way of courtesy, the management has actually ceased operations immediately after the fatal accident and even before the SBMA issued the CDO," Pyeong said.

"We have stopped all operations except those related to the preparations for the ceremony to launch the first ship ever made in Subic," he added.

Pyeong sought understanding for the work-related deaths, saying the latest accident that killed Atrero was caused by "force majeure."

Despite the issuance of the order against the operations of its construction arm, Pyeong said the firm would proceed with the inauguration of the first ship built in its shipyard on July 4.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to grace the event, he said.

He said the cease and desist order applied only on the firm's construction arm and not to the entire company.

SBMA ecology chief Amethya de la Llana-Koval confirmed this in a text message.

According to Pyeong, the two companies are "different." He said HHIC-Phils. Inc. is engaged in manufacturing ships while its construction arm is tasked with building the shipyard and other structures in the 354-hectare site off Redondo Bay in Subic town.

Construction activities and shipbuilding works "happen at the same time" in the same area, he said.

"Temporarily, there is no work [at the construction site]. We have advised them to stay home until further notice," he said.

"We will try to minimize the adverse effect of CDO," he said, referring to the non-payment of wages to its employees.

Pyeong said construction works by HHIC and its subcontractors employ some 5,000 workers. HHIC-Phils Inc. has hired 8,000 employees.

"We will try to lift [CDO] as soon as possible by explaining the situation and complying with the findings of the SBMA," he said.

Last week, Arreza said the SBMA recommended the termination of contracts of three subcontractors found to have been remiss in implementing safety requirements at the shipyard that led to the earlier accidents.

He named the subcontractors as Trigon/Bodahh Inc., whose worker fell from the roof of a building on March 11; Globe Distribution Services, whose two workers were pinned and killed by a collapsing metal beam on March 10; and DMK/Philnorkor, whose worker fell from a truck in December last year.

Ramon Lacbain II, head of the Task Force Hanjin, asked Arroyo to order concerned government agencies to join SBMA in its investigation "so we get to the bottom of the incidents that led to the deaths of Hanjin workers."

Task Force Hanjin was formed by the Zambales government to look at the plight of workers at the shipyard.

Olongapo City Councilor John Carlos de los Reyes assailed Hanjin for the string of accidents in its shipyard and work site. He urged the SBMA to "close the company entirely."

"If deaths are normal and are to be expected in a shipyard then we ought to close the whole thing down," he said.

Pyeong said: "Mostly, the reason for the accidents can be attributed to human error. But we are strictly implementing safety programs."

"Hanjin is implementing safety requirements more than the law requires," he added.

The company, he said, has been "very, very strict when it comes to safety."

"Our employees are being made aware of the dangers. But they are at the beginning stage. They are not well oriented. The minds of the workers have not yet been trained," he said.

"We are trying to improve safety issues but it is clear, in this industry deaths can not be entirely prevented. But we are trying to minimize them."

Reports from Ansbert Joaquin, Robert Gonzaga and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

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  • It is time for the SBMA and the Gov't of the Philippines to take control of this situation at Hanjin Shipyard. Why has it taken so long for SBMA to shut down the shipyard after how many deaths in the last 9 days.

    Shipyards are dangerouse YES, but how many shipyards in the US for example, how many deaths are there here? Maybe one every few years if that. WHY is that. Becasue the companies are held to strict safety standards and are checked daily, weekly to ensure that ALL actions within the shipyard are done safely.

    In regards to hanjin making the move to the Subic Bay area, think about this now. The Korean company made this move for one thing and one thing ONLY. HIGHER PROFITS for them with a lower cost of employees paid in pesos. They DO NOT care about the Filipino worker nor do they care about SAFETY of their workers.

    WAKE UP SBMA and Philippines Gov't. You are so concerned about bringing in investments to the Philippines at the cost of your own people.

    Close the shipyard down for a month for every death that happens. This is the ONLY way you will get their attentin here. Stop letting them put the blame on the workers. Who are the safety observers here? Korean or Filipino?

    By Blogger John, at 6/22/2008 7:33 AM  

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