We, the National Secretariat for Social Action – Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA), Urban Missionaries-AMRSP and the Social Action Center of Zambales, are one in recognizing that our government needs to entice foreign investors to help propel our country’s economy so as to provide employment opportunities for job-seeking Filipinos to support their families. However, we cannot compromise and allow our laws, social policies and workers’ rights to be violated and desecrated over investments. Labor takes priority over capital.
We are glad to know that Hanjin, a Korean conglomerate, the 4th largest ship building facility in the world, chose to invest in Subic, Zambales in 2006 through its Philippine counterpart, the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction-Philippines, Incorporated (HHIC-Philippines). Considered as the biggest foreign direct investment project in the region and in the country today with an investment of $1.7 Billion, we believe that HHIC could contribute much to our economy. Why not? “It has employed 17,000 workers” as of January 9, 2010. Accordingly, since 2007, it exported fourteen (14) vessels worth $60 million dollars each on the minimum (http://www.gmanews.tv/story/181150/hanjin). Obviously, such enormous financial capability is a treasure to our unstable economy and a great help to address the unemployment problem in our country.
However, we are alarmed by various reports of abuses and issues:
1. Hazardous working environment;
3. Labor rights violations;
4. Contractualization; and
5. Low wages.
During our visits and dialogue with the workers, we have learned that they were slapped, kicked, boxed back-handed, and struck on their heads or hard hat by Korean managers. They work on contractual basis and some of them have contract periods of five to ten years. Their salary is far less than what the company promised to them and too far less than their South Korean counterparts.
We are equally alarmed by the series of accidents and deaths in the workplace due to hazardous working environment and lack of personal protection equipments. Since 2006, a total of 27 workers died, resulting from accidents at the Hanjin facility were documented. These exclude cases of injuries and deaths that have been hidden by the company before the public. In fact just recently, a number of workers were brought to the hospitals because they were electrocuted.
Reports of these incidents prompted Senator Pia Cayetano to file a resolution “directing the appropriate Senate committees to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alarming number of reported cases of deaths of Filipino workers at the Hanjin shipyard in Subic Bay Freeport (P.S. RES No 807).” The Senate Labor Committee chaired by Senator Jinggoy Estrada together with Senator Pia Cayetano conducted an investigation on the reported alarming series of accidents. After the Senate investigation Sen. Jinggoy Estrada urged SBMA Administrator Armand Arezza through a media interview “to strictly regulate the operations of the South Korean firm”. The Senator added that “Filipino workers are dying because of the apparent careless disregard to safety of Hanjin officials. SBMA should protect our workers” (http://www.gmanews.tv/largevideos/related/jinggoy-estrada-on-accupational-hazards-at-hanjin-shipyard).
Estrada, “in his on-site inspection on Hanjin shipyard last Feb. 5, 2009 identified some safety and employment concerns of the laborers after he personally persuaded them to speak up on their working condition. Among his observations were: 1. Only two doctors (one general practitioner, one dentist) are on duty daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. after 5:00pm shift, no doctor is in the clinic; 2. Not all workers wear their helmets while at work; 3. Some workers wear dilapidated shoes. The senator even saw ones who wear “safety shoes” only banded together with green electrical tape; 4. Some workers complain they do not have insurance; 5. Some canals are left open; 6. Workers complain they work even on Sundays, without proper compensation. Other say they are underpaid, receiving only Php 303, instead of the minimum of the Php 310 wage rate” (http://www.senjinggoyestrada.com/index.php/articles/view/151.html)
Based on these, HHIC clearly violates our law especially on Occupational Health and Safety (Article 162 of the Philippine Labor Code and DOLE Memorandum Circular No. 2 Series of 1998). HHIC also violated the security of tenure (Art. 279) of the Labor Code. But instead of rescuing our workers, the previous government chose to pay no heed to the cry of our workers. It is very disheartening to note that the high government officials in the previous administration allowed HHIC to violate our laws and abuse the rights of our Filipino workers because they have stakes in the company. This would explain perhaps why HHIC seems untouchable and has no fear to violate our laws that even the governor, mayors and other local officials cannot go inside the shipyard without approval from higher company officials.
Our hearts bleed for the Hanjin workers, who continue to experience harassments and violations of their rights. The repressive and oppressive treatments of HHIC on our workers should be stopped. Hanjin employers should be reminded that their investment does not give them the right to disrespect our laws much more to degrade our workers.
We urge all peace-loving Filipinos and advocates for justice to rally behind Hanjin workers. Let us support Hanjin workers’ call for humane treatment and safe working environment. Let us exact accountability from those and among government officials and agencies to pursue their investigation and see to it that HHIC is complying with the results and recommendation of Senate Labor Committee. We need to unite ourselves and strongly denounce South Korean employers in HHIC and demand them to observe and respect Philippine laws.
- Let us call upon the new Administration of President Simeon Benigno Aquino III to review the investment contract of HHIC. Let us remind him of his promise: “hindi sa baluktot na daan kundi sa matuwid na daan ang ating dadaanan.”
- We demand that the Department of Labor and Employment; Commission on Human Rights and Labor Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives guarantee that the previous observations and recommendations for a safe working condition be enforced inside the Hanjin site. Moreover, we urge the above-mentioned government institutions to conduct further investigation for other possible violations of the rights of the workers.
- We demand that HHIC take full responsibility and be accountable for the accidents that happened -- injuries and deaths of workers in the workplace. It should pay the appropriate compensation due to workers otherwise we will be forced to file a criminal complaint in the proper courts of justice. .
Let us always remind ourselves that human dignity and rights flowing from it have always been of paramount concern of our Christian faith. The basis of this concern is the simple truth of our creation unto the image of God which demands us to respect and love our fellow human persons as we are all equal before Him. It is therefore, imperative for every one of us to work for human dignity. And working for human dignity is simply providing every person the opportunity to work and grow into the fullness of life.
In solidarity with the workers,
MOST REV. BRODERICK PABILLO, D.D.
Chairman, National Secretariat for Social Action
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
470 General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila
email@example.comFR. HANIVAL G. BRUCELAS
Director, Social Action Center of Zambales
DANIEL SANTIAGO III
Chairperson, Urban Missionaries
Association of Major Religious Superiors
in the Philippines
70 Main Horseshoe Drive, 1112 Quezon City
For your expression of solidarity, please write to:
(kindly furnish us a copy of your letter)
President Simeon Benigno Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace, San Miguel, Manila
Mrs. Rosalinda Baldoz
Secretary, Department of Labor and Employment
7th Flr. DOLE Building,
Muralla St. Corner Gen. Luna St., Intramuros
Manila 1002, Philippines
Fax/Tel: +632 527 3494
Hon. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila
Direct line No.: 521-3310
Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Building, Commonwealth Avenue
UP Complex, Diliman, Quezon City
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada
Chairperson, Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development
Rm. 602, 6th Floor, GSIS Building
Financial Center, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City
Hon. Emil L. Ong
Chairperson, Labor and Employment Committee
3/F Annex Building, House of Representatives
Hon. Armand Arezza
Administrator and Chief Executive Officer
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
Bldg. 229, Waterfront Road
SBF 2, Olongapo City