The Antique provincial government has extended cash and rice assistance to 400 employees displaced after a fire gutted the Gaisano Grand Mall Antique on June 17.
“Each of the 400 employees was given P5,000 cash and rice at the Delegate Angel Salazar Jr. Memorial School in San Jose de Buenavista,” Noemi Tagle of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office said yesterday.
Governor Rhodora Cadiao led the distribution of aid under the assistance to individuals in crisis situation and which was carried out on June 18 with 323 employees as beneficiaries and 77 others on June 22.
Tagle said that, initially, they only expected around 300 employees who were hired directly by the mall but they decided to also include workers of mall tenants, who were also in dire need upon the assessment of the PSWDO.
Meanwhile, San Jose de Buenavista municipal fire marshal, Inspector Ulyses Paco, said they expect a team of investigators, composed of five to seven BFP personnel from the national headquarters, to arrive anytime next week to conduct an investigation.
The team of investigators is now coordinating with the Antique Provincial Inter-Agency Task Force for their travel requirements and if they need to undergo the 14-day quarantine before they could start work at the fire scene.
He also said that they are not allowing employees or mall tenants to enter the premises to make sure that the pieces of evidence will not be tarnished.
Initial investigation of the BFP showed that 57 stalls in the mall were engulfed by the fire, with damage estimated at P80 million.
The fire that gutted the two-storey mall on Thursday was declared fire out at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Thirty-three fire trucks from nearby stations and the province and city of Iloilo rushed to the scene to fight the blaze.
Based on testimonies of employees, the fire started at the ladies section on the second floor of the mall.
During a recent virtual press conference, Mayor Elmer Untaran has appealed to the management of the mall to extend assistance to their affected employees and if possible, construct a new structure soon.
He said that aside from the business tax they pay to the local government, the mall also employed residents.
“There are boarding houses and other nearby businesses that had opened up because of the employees and other numerous people, who go to Gaisano,” he said.
Department of Labor and Employment Antique provincial director, Carmella Abellar, appealed to the mall management to transfer some of its employees to its other branches.
Gaisano Panay manager Alex Balbena said he would recommend the transfer of their employees, especially the regular ones to their other branches.
He also said they have engineers who will be coming over to inspect the burned building so that they could make recommendations on what to do with the structure.
“It usually takes one to two years to rebuild a new structure, but we still have no definite plan because of the pandemic,” he said.*PNA