Unsafe establishments in Valenzuela City face closure

Unsafe establishments in Valenzuela City face closure

The threat of criminal and administrative charges was enough for Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian to change his tune.

Gatchalian issued an order on Wednesday revoking all business permits of establishments without a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) and serving notice of their closure.

The order came two days after President Aquino warned officials of Valenzuela City that they could be held liable for issuing Kentex Manufacturing Inc. a business permit despite its noncompliance with fire safety standards, a violation of the Revised Fire Code of the Philippines.

The slipper factory burned down on May 13, killing 72 people, mostly workers.

Aquino said Kentex violated fire safety regulations by not having automatic fire sprinklers, fire detection and alarm systems, and protected fire escape.

Partly upon the President's instructions, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima created a special panel of prosecutors to determine whether there was enough evidence to file criminal and administrative charges against those behind the Kentex factory fire.

Before the President's statement, Gatchalian washed his hands of the tragedy, saying the city government was allowed to issue provisional business permits pending the grant of an FSIC.

The mayor said the city policy was based on a memorandum circular issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to streamline business operations.

Gatchalian on Thursday said he issued General Executive Order No. 2015-107 because of Aquino's pronouncement and the conference of Metro Manila mayors where Interior Secretary Mar Roxas reiterated the "No FSIC, no business permit" directive.

"The memorandum circulars have been abandoned and this is the new position of the national government so we have to follow," the mayor said.

Establishments are given seven days upon receipt of the new order to present a valid FSIC.

Most firms unsafe

Only 2,667, or 16.91 per cent, of the 15,775 establishments were issued FSIC by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) based on Valenzuala Fire Station's report at the Feb. 20 meeting of the city's Peace and Order Council.

Of the registered establishments, 3,557 were inspected by the city's fire department in 2014.

With his order, Gatchalian said more than 13,000 establishments in the city faced closure and revocation of business permits.

The local government has started distributing the order to high-risk establishments like factories on Wednesday.

In issuing the provisional business permit to Kentex, Gatchalian said Valenzuela had followed three memorandum circulars issued by the Department of Trade and Industry, DILG and BFP that authorised the local government.

3-S Program

Based on these directives, the city government enacted in 2012 an ordinance establishing the 3-S (Simple, Speed and Service Excellence in Public Service) Program.

"Theoretically, if the BFP is doing its job then all the establishments in the city will just show its FSIC," Gatchalian said.

A Jan. 4, 2011, memorandum circular signed by the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said the "city or municipal fire marshal shall issue a written report notifying the local chief executive wherein all the names of noncompliant establishments are listed, and expressly stating therein a recommendation not to issue a permit or revoke existing ones."

Gatchalian said the permit of Kentex was not revoked because the BFP never reported back.

BFP spokesman Supt. Renato Marcial said "we will try to do our best to inspect all the establishments [in Valenzuela] in seven days."

"We will add people in order to comply with the directive of the mayor," he said.

Currently, the city has only 27 safety inspectors.

The priority would be high-risk establishments, such as factories.

"We need to follow the law. What we need is everyone's co-operation. This is more on prevention," Marcial said.

As of December 2014, only 87,938 of the 310,745 registered establishments in Metro Manila had been inspected by the BFP.


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