US probers to investigate Pinoys rig workers

FEDERAL authorities are requesting for an access to three injured Filipino workers as part of efforts to determine what really happened in the November 16 oil platform fire in the Gulf of Mexico that left three other Filipino workers dead, reports reaching the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC said it has been informed that the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement (BSEE) of the Department of the Interior has made initial inquiries to check on the condition of the three Filipinos being treated for serious burns at the Baton Rouge General Hospital in Louisiana.

“We expect federal authorities to interview the three Filipino workers as soon as their condition would allow them to give their account of what really happened that day,” Philippine Ambassador to the United States (US) Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said.

Ambassador Cuisia made the statement as hospital authorities announced that the condition of two of the three Filipino workers, who were previously in the serious list, continues to improve.

Ambassador Cuisia said Renato Dominguez, 52, and the other Filipino, whose name could not be disclosed at the request of his family, are now in fair condition while the third worker, Wilberto Ilagan, 50, remains in good condition.

“We expect our kababayans to tell investigators everything they know so that we could all get to the bottom of this tragedy,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

According to him, three other Filipinos who were with the six victims when fire broke out on the platform owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy gave their statements to BSEE investigators before they returned to the Philippines a few days after the incident.

Ambassador Cuisia had earlier rejected insinuations that the fire was a result of the incompetence and poor command of English of the affected Filipino workers.

The envoy said the workers, who were under contract with Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., have extensive experience in the offshore oil industry and have undergone proper safety and language training.

“If Filipino offshore oil workers are incompetent as some want the public to believe, then why do we have many of them helping maintain and operate oil platforms and support vessels in the Gulf of Mexico as of now?” Ambassador Cuisia asked.

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