Prompted by incidents of fire in economic zones, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has revoked the agreement of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) ceding to the latter the authority to inspect establishments in export zones.
With the move, the labor department has reassumed the responsibility of ensuring strict enforcement of labor laws and standards, including technical standards, in enterprises within the economic zones.
In a letter to PEZA Director General Charito Plaza, Bello said the delegated authority in the conduct of technical safety inspection is withdrawn “…given that enforcement of labor laws and standards is the primary mandate of DOLE.”
“We are mainly responsible to ensure the occupational safety and health standards in various establishments and companies through our visitorial and enforcement powers vested in us by the Labor Code. We should not be passing on this responsibility to PEZA or other agencies,” Bello said.
The revocation of the agreements signed in March 2006 and June 2016 followed fire incidents at the in HTI Cavite Economic Zone last February 2017 which killed 5 workers and injured more than 100 workers, and at the NCCC Mall in Davao City resulting to the death of 37 call center workers.
At the Cavite fire, Bello created an Investigation team to determine the compliance of HTI on occupational safety and health standards. HTI was later found to have committed multiple violations of general labor standards and safety regulations, contrary to the investigation report conducted by PEZA.
The incident prompted Bello to create a technical working group tasked to review the agreement signed between the labor department and PEZA, particularly on the inspection of labor and occupational safety and health standards.
In the aftermath of the Davao fire, President Duterte has given Bello the go-signal for the revocation of DOLE-PEZA agreements.
Bello meanwhile clarified that DOLE will maintain its partnership with PEZA in the promotion of industrial harmony in the economic zones pursuant to Republic Act. No. 7916.