FEARING a whitewash, a labor rights group and clean air advocates have sought the intercession of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd on their complaints against five steel mills for alleged violation of labor and environmental laws.
The Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU) and the Clean Air Philippines Movement, Inc. (CAPMI) appealed to Bello to immediately act on their complaints that were filed a month ago at the National Capital Region (NCR), Pampanga and Davao regional offices of the labor department but have not been acted upon.
Accused of violating the Occupational and Health Hazards Law and the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 were the Melter Steel Corp., Real Steel Corp, and Wan Chiong Steel Corp., all based in Pampanga; Metro Dragon Steel Corp. in Caloocan City and Davao Mighty Steel Corp.
“We await from DOLE its immediate action on our joint complaints against these factories because they violated the occupational safety and health hazard laws, including the Clean Air Act, which poses grave dangers to their workers and the community around these factories,” said PAFLU president Terry Tuazon.
PAFLU claimed that the air pollution at these industrial sites exceeded the maximum allowable level set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The acceptable total suspended particulates (TSP) level is TSP 90 ug/Ncm (unit of suspended particles) of air but readings at the sites range from TSP 303.9 ug/Ncm to TSP 603.1 ug/Ncm.
CAPMI president Manuel Galvez said most of the subject steel mills use an induction furnace that yields massive air pollution and produces substandard metal products due to incomplete combustion of recycled materials used in the manufacture of steel products.
“If not acted on now, we fear that a whitewash could possibly happen to our complaints. Thus our appeal to the DOLE secretary to act immediately to save the lives and limbs of the workers and the people living in the communities around these factories,” he added.
Bello earlier revised the rules on the administration and enforcement of labor laws to further strengthen its implementation and secure a high level of compliance in workplaces.
He issued Department Order (DO) No.183, granting visitorial power to labor inspectors, particularly the Special Inspection Team, to conduct routine inspections and complaint inspections or occupational safety and health (OSH) standard investigation in any establishments.
Routine inspections shall be conducted in the priority establishments engaged in hazardous work; employing children; engaged in contracting or subcontracting arrangements; employing 10 or more employees; and such other establishments or industries as may be determined by the labor secretary as priority.