At least 37 people died in the massive fire that ravaged a shopping mall in southern Philippines. Picture: Xinhua
At least 37 people died in the massive fire that ravaged a shopping mall in southern Philippines. Picture: Xinhua
The smoking shopping mall in Davao City, the Philippines.  Picture: Frinston Lim/Xinhua
The smoking shopping mall in Davao City, the Philippines. Picture: Frinston Lim/Xinhua
A fire rages at a shopping mall in Davao City, the Philippines. Picture: Xinhua
A fire rages at a shopping mall in Davao City, the Philippines. Picture: Xinhua
Firefighters try to put out a fire at a shopping mall in Davao City, the Philippines. Picture: Xinhua
Firefighters try to put out a fire at a shopping mall in Davao City, the Philippines. Picture: Xinhua

Manila - The bodies of 36 people who went missing during a fire at a shopping mall in the southern Philippines were recovered on Monday as the country's justice secretary ordered an investigation into the blaze.

The discovery brought the death toll to 37 in the fire at the NCCC Mall in Davao City, located 1,000 kilometres south of Manila. One body was found on Sunday, according to Mayor Sara Duterte.

The bodies were found near a staircase that led to the lobby of Research Now SSI, a US outsourcing company on the fourth floor of the mall, said Senior Superintendent Wilberto Rico Niel Kwan Tiu, regional director of the Bureau of Fire Protection.

The company, which employs 500 people in Davao City, said it has arranged counselling for its workers and will "create a fund for contributions to provide further assistance to the families of those who were lost."

"This terrible tragedy has left us with heavy hearts," Research Now SSI Chief Executive Gary Laben said in a statement.

"We offer our condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of the victims."

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said he has ordered an investigation into the fire "to determine if someone is at fault and should be held criminally liable."

"It is for this reason that I have ordered the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) ... to conduct a probe to determine the criminal culpability of those responsible," he said.

The fire, which began shortly after the mall opened on Saturday, started in the furniture section on the third floor and quickly spread to other floors. The cause of the blaze is not yet known.

Aguirre said he also directed the NBI to file criminal cases if necessary.

"By punishing those responsible, we can set an example to others so that, hopefully, there will be no repetition of these tragedies," he said.