Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Arroyo to visit Hanjin Friday

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is visiting on Friday the shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Philippines Inc., one of the big-ticket investments her administration has drawn in, despite complaints on the deaths of workers, dislocation of communities and destruction of the environment in those parts of Zambales.

Arroyo will lead the naming ceremony for the first ship built by HHIC Phils. in its shipyard off the Redondo Bay in Subic town.

It is going to be Arroyo's fourth visit to the site since HHIC Phils. broke ground in mid-2006. Hanjin put in the biggest single foreign investment worth $1.6 billion in 2005.

Zambales Governor Amor Deloso on Thursday said the President’s visit would be a good opportunity for her to verify the complaints that provincial and local governments had been trying to address.

"I hope that when she comes, she would look into the problems," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

He tallied the deaths on workers at "not less than 27" due to accidents and malaria.

Aside from safety issues, Deloso said "Hanjin started on the wrong foot kaya malas (that is why it is experiencing bad luck)."

By wrong foot, he was referring to the dislocation of 470 families from Sitio Quarry and their transfer to a relocation site in Sitio Agusuhin where the structures were unfinished, damaged or undone. The resettlement project, handled by local officials, did not turn out right.

HHIC Phils. and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority in 2007 handled the Nagyantoc resettlement site for another 400 families, doing this together with Gawad Kalinga. Poor site preparations, however, caused the ground to sink, leaving cracks on the houses.

"Our President should pay attention to the mountains that were unnecessarily leveled off and quarried without the proper permits from national agencies or local governments," Deloso said.

"Hanjin is lording it over here at the expense of our people," he added.

"We've tried addressing the situation here and we believe it is only the President who could exert much power to correct the bad things that are happening here."

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said his office has "always been looking at the issues raised by Governor Deloso."

The work safety concerns were being addressed through a joint audit of the SBMA and the Department of Labor and Employment starting April 19 and 20, he said.

Although the SBMA had lifted the cease-and-desist order it issued on the construction arm of the HHIC Phils., 19 of 43 Filipino and Korean subcontractors of the Hanjin Construction Corp. Ltd. would remain suspended until passing the occupational and work safety standards by the SBMA and DOLE, Arreza said.

The SBMA lifted the CDO because the DOLE found the death of Mario Atrero and the injuries on his five co-workers to be a case of force majeure.

The workers sought shelter under the steel forms, or walls for Dry Dock No. 6, when it rained hard in the area. Strong winds toppled the iron forms.

No contractors in the shipbuilding works have been suspended, Arreza said.

On resettlement and environment issues, he said the SBMA had signed two memoranda with Deloso. One is about the settlement of claims by the displaced residents. The other is about environmental management.
HHIC Phils. got a permit to quarry from the SBMA, Arreza said. The soil and boulders were used as filling materials for the reclamation site. The coral reefs were transplanted out of the site, he added.

"Hanjin simply continued the quarrying operations there. The SBMA got the filling materials there for our seaport project," he said. By Tonette Orejas - Inquirer Central Luzon Desk

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