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Dozens Feared Dead in Philippine Footwear Factory Fire

A fire engulfed a rubber sandal and slippers factory just outside the Philippine capital, Manila, killing at least 31 workers and trapping others, Al Jazeera reported.

Ariel Barayuga, head of bureau of fire protection, told the news agency that investigators were trying to determine the cause of fire that spread across the two-story Kenetex Manufacturing facility. A local media report said at least 60 workers are feared trapped.

Verisk Maplecroft Asia analyst Eufracia Taylor said the timing and severity of the incident is particularly embarrassing for the Philippine government, which recently restated its commitment to upholding occupational health and safety standards.

Taylor expects the deadly fire to promote widespread anger among workers who have yet to reap the economic benefits of the country’s rapid development. “It will constitute a significant setback to the reputation of the Philippine manufacturing sector, which has fought hard to compete with its regional peers,” she said.

“Lax occupational health and safety standards have created a complex set of challenges for companies sourcing manufactured goods across Asia, including risks to corporate reputations, increasing operating costs and obstacles to supply chains transparency,” Taylor said.

Despite public commitments to improve labor standards following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013, Taylor said a gap remains between the targets of companies the actions taken by suppliers throughout Asia. In particular, standards have struggled to improve due to restrictive budgets in the government departments responsible for compliance.