CITY OF ILAGAN, Isabela — The remains of an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan who died of burns caused by acid were received with grief as it arrived at their house in Lullutan village here on Thursday afternoon.
Twenty-nine-year-old Deserie Tagubasi died after she suffered fatal burns last Aug. 28 when she accidentally dropped a small container of hydrofluoric acid that she was carrying inside the Tyntek electronics factory at the Chunan Science Park in Miaoli County. The acid splattered on her legs, causing burns that resulted in her death later in the day at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, where she had been transferred from a hospital in Miaoli, reports said.
Deserie, a single woman who had been helping send her younger siblings to school, had been working in Taiwan for the past three years. She was supposed to be back in the Philippines for a vacation this September.
“We were dumbfounded. When my daughter in Manila called us, I cried profusely after the bad news was relayed to me,” Amalia Tagubasi, Deserie’s mother, told the Philippine News Agency on Thursday.
Deserie’s sister, Digna Abarra, said they would file charges against the company and its officials in Taiwan and would hold its local employment firm here secondarily liable.
“They should be penalized for their misdeeds. They lack facilities for occupational safety for the employees,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taiwan including environmental health groups from Taiwan and the Philippines have joined the clamor for justice for Tagubasi.
Fidel Macauyag, director of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taiwan, said the company did not provide Tagubasi and her co-workers with full body protection from hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic chemical, and were not given adequate safety training. The labor official also revealed that, as told him by other workers, the factory did not even have the chemicals to neutralize the chemical in case of an accident.
Hydrofluoric acid, also known as hydrogen fluoride, is a highly corrosive agent that is used in industrial applications such as in electronics manufacturing.
In a joint press statement, the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation (EQPF) of Taiwan and the EcoWaste Coalition of the Philippines also condoled with the co-workers of Tagubasi and her family in Isabela province as they echoed the need for compensation and the strengthening of rules to prevent occupational hazards
Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition, said the incident should compel Tyntek and other electronics companies into developing a new process, with workers’ participation, that will ensure occupational health and safety in the multi-billion dollar industry.
“With respect to the ongoing investigation on Tagubasi’s death, we demand that company executives should be held accountable for the serious lapse in safety procedures, and that Tagubasi’s family should be justly compensated, noting that no amount can truly compensate for their loss,” Dizon added.
For his part, Dr. Joe DiGangi, senior science and technical adviser of IPEN, a global civil society network for a toxics-free future that includes the EQPF and the EcoWaste Coalition, said the incident “is a tragic wake-up call about an industry built on toxic chemical use.”
“Regulations governing the industry should be carefully reviewed, strengthened, and enforced to prevent any injuries or deaths in the future,” he said. Villamor Visaya, Jr / PNA – northboundasia.com