“We express our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the five miners who were found dead in the open-pit coal mine in Semirara Island. We also express our solidarity with the families and friends of the other miners who remain missing…” – KMU
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno demanded justice for the workers of Semirara Mining and Power Corporation as nine to ten of its workers were reported buried alive on July 17, when one of its mines collapsed. Semirara Mining Corp. is the Philippines’ largest coal producer. It has been increasing its coal mining operations and output in the past few years, posting record high production and sale of coal from the province of Antique.
In a statement, Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairperson of KMU, called to task the Semirara Mining and Power Corp. and its effective mother company, DMCI Holdings, Inc., saying that these companies are directly responsible for the death of the workers. The mine deaths this week are not the first deaths in these mines. A similar tragedy happened in February last year, where at least five miners died following a mine collapse. The KMU said all these confirm that Semirara-DMCI is guilty of violating safety standards.
It said the mine workers were made to work very early that morning of July 17 despite the non-stop rains in the area, and on top of the inherently dangerous nature of work in open-pit mining.
“We express our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the three miners who were found dead in the open-pit coal mine in Semirara Island. We also express our solidarity with the families and friends of the six other miners who remain missing after the collapse of an open-pit mine around 3:00 morning of July 17,” Labog said.
DMCI has an “atrocious environmental and social track record,” according to the green group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, which has also called for the closure of Semirara mines. Kalikasan PNE has said its operations are some of the most hazardous and pollution-causing.
The KMU also called to task the Labor Department. After the Kentex factory fire that killed 73 workers last May, the mine deaths comprise further proof “that the Aquino government is in collusion with big capitalists in violating workplace safety,” Labog said. He said the DOLE Order No. 131-13, called “Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System,” merely legalizes violations of Occupational Health and Safety Standards.
The labor center reiterated their call for the national government to recognize its leading role in upholding workplace safety, to carry out mandatory inspection of workplaces in the country, and to impose stiff penalties to capitalists who violate safety standards. In the light of the coming State of the Nation Address of President Aquino, the incident, said Labog, exposes the true state of the country’s workers – “they are receiving wages below the minimum, are contractual in status, are robbed of their benefits, and are subjected to dangerous working conditions.”