CHO: Warehouse blamed for toxic fumes had no business permit

THE FACILITY blamed for the chemical leak that sent 35 people to the hospital was found to have no business permit. According to a sanitary order, a business permit was not presented during an inspection post the incident. City Health Office chief Dr. Josephine Villafuerte has ordered the immediate closure of the facility.

“We have already endorsed the sanitary order to Cenro, EMB, and the business bureau,” she said. “Refill operations should not have been allowed in the first place because the facility is located near residential areas.”

CHO is coordinating with concerned agencies to prevent the same incident from happening again.

Negligence, Villafuerte said, played a huge role in the situation.

“When you’re operating refilling stations, you should have personal protective equipment and should have an emergency operation plan,” she said.

The time it took for the leaking valve to be shut also took some time, which aggravated the situation.

At 3 a.m. on Monday, Lasang barangay captain Allan Simuag reported the incident to the Bureau of Fire in Bunawan, which subsequently coordinated with the nearest fire department in Panabo that had access to breathing equipment.

From there, responders from Panabo had to travel to Lasang to enter the empty warehouse to shut off the valve.

By then, the liquified chlorine already filled the air, affecting nearby residents and the Task Force Davao checkpoint, 75 meters away from the warehouse.

CHO’s investigation also showed that the facility applied for a barangay clearance for a warehouse, but it remains unclear whether the personnel employed to refill tanks were technically competent.

“Said establishment is Manila-based and could not present pertinent business permits to operate in Davao,” a CHO report said.

Sales manager Cesar San Antonio and Manila-based owner Johnson Tan were properly advised of the accountability. Both are likely already in Davao taking care of hospital bills after the chemical inhalation patients have already been discharged from the hospitals, she said.

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