DAVAO CITY — Workers displaced by a fire that destroyed a mall in this city will be “re-assigned” to other branches, a company official said.

New City Commercial Center (NCCC) mall employees affected by the fire will be assigned to other branches in the city: NCCC Main Davao (Uyanguren), NCCC Centerpoint Matina, NCCC Panacan, and NCCC Buhangin, Atty. Darry T. Gallego, assistant vice-president for corporate services of NCCC said.

The mall’s leasing team is already taking care of the tenants while workers are now being managed, he said during a conference with the families of the victims held yesterday in one of the hotels here.

“The management doesn’t think of anything else but taking care of everyone,” Mr. Gallego said, adding that rebuilding the shopping center is not the concern and priority of management right now.

Mall management will also be offering scholarships and livelihood programs to children and spouses of the victims, Mr. Gallego said.

The official also denied allegations that the water sprinklers and the smoke alarm detectors were “useless and inefficient,” which allegedly were among the factors that led to the deaths of the 38 call center agents of Research Now SSI.

“We have working fire alarm systems and fire sprinklers,” Mr. Gallego said. “But we have to wait for the final investigations because you might say it is self serving for the NCCC.”

Mr. Gallego also denied complaints from some of the survivors who had a difficult time leaving the building using the fire exit.

“The fire exit will lead you outside the mall but there is a stair coming from the upper floor. But you have to pass through the emergency stairs before you finally able to exit the building,” he said.

It took some time for mall management to meet and assist the victims because “we still have to sort things out to make sure that everything is taken care of before we will be able to meet face to face with the families,” he said. From the start and even during the process of identification at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the management sent their doctors to assist, he added.

Most of the families who attended the conference on Thursday expressed frustrations regarding the meeting’s outcome. They said that the management failed to answer their queries such as assistance from NCCC, reason of the fire, and why security was unable to announce a fire alert to employees of Research Now SSI.

For her part, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio on Thursday clarified that she is not part of the team investigating last Saturday’s fire at the NCCC Mall Davao that killed 37 SSI employees and one mall employee.

She made these remarks after questions were raised about her impartiality since she became an endorser of Choice Mart, which is affiliated with the NCCC mall.

“For the record, I am not part of the investigation team. I have never presented myself to investigate the mall fire and under normal circumstances, a City Mayor does not sign fire investigation reports of the BFP,” Ms. Duterte-Carpio said.

Among the agencies tasked to investigate the NCCC Mall fire are an insurance investigator from the NCCC Mall, a task force composed of the Bureau of Fire Protection, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the city government of Davao as well as a third-party private investigator.

“I never said I [was] investigating the fire incident and I welcome any investigation on how I did my work in this particular matter,” she said. — Maya M. Padillo and Carmencita A. Carillo