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Workplace NGO hits Semirara over workers’ deaths

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A non-government organization focusing on workplace health and safety condemned the Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) for the death of nine workers last July 17, noting that the company is responsible for two cases of workers’ death under Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s presidency.

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) said employers should be held criminally liable for failing to ensure the safety of their workers and that it joins the Filipino workers in calling for justice over the incident in Semirara Island, Caluya, Antique.

IOHSAD said five workers also died in the same spot last February 13, 2013.

“Mining is considered as one of the most hazardous occupations. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should never be complacent in monitoring mining companies’ strict compliance with health and safety standards,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD advocacy officer.

De Leon said that it appears that the workers were asked to report to work despite the dangers posed by continuous heavy rains in the coal mine area from July 1 to 14, which could have loosened the soil and caused the collapse of tons of soil, burying the workers and heavy equipment.

“Why were the workers compelled to work in such dangerous conditions? This is a clear manifestation of how profit is placed on top of worker’s safety by the DM Consunji Inc.(DMCI ), main operator of the coal mine. This is the same company which placed profits over national heritage when it constructed the 49-story Torre de Manila which ruined the view of Rizal’s monument in Manila,” added De Leon.

SMPC, a subsidiary of DMCI Holdings, Inc., reported a consolidated net income of P6.9 billion in 2014. It has also reached a record-high production of 8 million metric tons of coal last year.

IOHSAD also expressed support for Sen. Loren Legarda’s call for “an independent and fair investigation” of the Semirara incident.

The safety group also reiterated its call for the immediate passage of House Bill 4635 or Worker’s SHIELD ( Safety and Health Inspection and Employer’s Liability Decree), filed by Gabriela Women’s Party.

This proposed bill pushes for mandatory safety inspections in all establishments and the criminalization of occupational health and safety standards violations. ##