Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, February 02, 2009

Senate sets Hanjin probe Tuesday

The Senate is expecting to get a clearer picture on the deaths of several Filipino workers at the shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries Inc. at the Subic Freeport when it starts its hearing Tuesday.

The Senate Labor Committee under Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada will hold the investigation sought by Sen. Pilar Juliana Cayetano's Resolution 807.

Cayetano, in a press statement on the Senate website, said she expects the hearing to shed light on the cause of the string of deaths. She also said she hopes to get an explanation from government agencies responsible for enforcing labor standards and occupational safety measures at the shipyard.

The death toll has reportedly reached 19 based on the Korean firm's official records since 2006, Cayetano said.

Except for the latest casualty, a Korean national who worked as a foreman and died last Jan. 25, all the fatalities from vehicular and work-related accidents at the shipyard were Filipino laborers, the latest of which was Raldon Del Rosario, who died last Jan. 23.

Last December, Cayetano call the chamber's attention following the deaths of two Filipino workers within a week's span in November. Philip Albino Mendoza and Jose Vener Gil, were the 16th and 17th casualties at the shipyard, respectively.

Cayetano also noted that an unofficial account by a labor-support group in Subic had placed a bigger death toll at 24, including stay-in workers who reportedly died from malaria.

She also denounced last Jan. 21 what she called the interference of South Korean Ambassador Joong-Kyung on the authority of the Senate to conduct legislative inquiries.

Cayetano cited the Korean envoy's letter dated December 23, 2008, where he warned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile of "substantial and negative repercussions" should Hanjin become the subject of a Senate inquiry.

She likewise downplayed fears an investigation would discourage foreign investments, lead to more layoffs and compound the already gloomy unemployment scenario brought about by the global financial crisis.

"I have nothing against foreign investments and nothing against Koreans per se. I welcome the fact that they're coming in to bring jobs and much-needed capital. But I believe that it is the government's responsibility to create an atmosphere that should encourage business investments and at the same time ensure strict compliance with our laws, regardless of whether you're a Filipino or foreigner," Cayetano said. - GMANews.TV

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