Embassy of the Philippines vows to protect claims of workers hurt in Gulf blast

Officials from the Philippines vowed to protect the rights and claims of workers from the country who were injured and killed in last year’s fatal Gulf platform blast.

“The embassy continues to assist the affected workers and is prepared to take all actions to ensure that their rights are fully protected and their claims properly addressed,” the embassy of the Republic of the Philippines said in a statement.

The assertion comes just days after a third-party investigation commissioned by the platform owner, Black Elk Energy, effectively blames contractors for the accident.

Many of the workers for Galliano, La.-based Grand Isle Shipyard, which was the contractor doing construction and maintenance work on the facility, were recruited from the Phillipines. A 2011 lawsuit accuses Grand Isle of fraudulently hiring workers from the Phillipines and forcing them to work under deplorable conditions. Grand Isle has rejected the claims.

Federal investigators are still probing what caused the explosion and fire at Black Elk Energy’s West Delta 32 production platform, which killed three people and injured several others. The Black Elk-funded report, conducted by ABSG Consulting, said contractors were welding a pipe that hadn’t been cleared of flammable gas, ultimately igniting explosions in three connected oil tanks.

Although the embassy of the Philippines said it would not comment on the ABSG investigation, it offered some thinly veiled criticism:

“The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines does not intend to comment on the thorough investigation that was supposed to have been conducted by ABS Consulting, the so-called independent consultant hired by Black Elk Energy that also cleared the Houston-based company of responsibility over the accident.”

A forthcoming investigation report from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement gave Filipono workers involved in the accident “the opportunity to participate,” the embassy said.

In releasing the ABSG Consulting report, the CEO of Houston-based Black Elk Energy praised the quality of Filipino offshore oil workers.

“Filipino offshore oil workers have a deserved reputation for competence and professionalism,” said Black Elk Energy CEO John Hoffman.