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300,000 lives at stake over substandard steel – Bam

Manila, Philippines — Forty-eight percent of hardware stores in the Philippines are selling substandard steel.

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV yesterday lamented this fact after the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce launched its first investigation into the alleged proliferation of uncertified and substandard steel products and the rampant smuggling of imported steel products into the country.

“Practically, one out of two are selling (building) materials that are not of good quality,” Aquino told reporters at the sidelines of the hearing.

NERVES OF STEEL – Senators Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ Aquino, chairman of the Committee on Trade and Industry, and Sergio Osmeña III display enough courage as they initiate an investigation into the proliferation of substandard steel products allegedly imported by smugglers. Story on Page 13. (Senate PRIB Photo)

NERVES OF STEEL – Senators Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ Aquino, chairman of the Committee on Trade and Industry, and Sergio Osmeña III display enough courage as they initiate an investigation into the proliferation of substandard steel products allegedly imported by smugglers. (Senate PRIB Photo)

“The problem is a lot of Filipinos are duped. They thought they have been paying for quality steel products all along,” he said.

He warned that 300,000 lives is at stake due to substandard reinforcement bars created from wire rods and used in estimated 60,000 houses in different parts of the country.

“Sixty thousand houses is not a joke. That’s 300,000 lives we’re talking about,” he said.

An official from the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR), Undersecretary Lesley Cordero, told the committee that many of the houses and buildings in the Visayan region that were destroyed during the onslaught of super-typhoon “Yolanda” were made of low quality steel.

That is why, Aquino said, the government has to look into the reported smuggling activities of steel in the country.

“Practically, 450,000 tons of steel entering our markets come from other nations,” he said.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), he said, should also beef up its monitoring on hardware stores that sell substandard steel.

“There are many substandard steel being sold in the market so the DTI also needs to do a better job in monitoring the hardware stores and what type of steel they sell,” said Aquino.

The Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI), led by Roberto Cola, urged the committee to pass a measure prescribing stiffer penalties on manufacturers of substandard products and better enforcement of customs regulations to curtail rampant smuggling of inferior steel products principally from China.

The PISI also called on the DTI to impose penalties on the local manufacturers that sell substandard steel, including revocation of their licenses.

The group also called on Aquino to lead in the amendment of Republic Act No. 7103 to add the selling of substandard products to be covered by the same penalties applied to those smuggling steel products.

Cola pointed out manufacturers who are found violating standards laws ought to be prohibited from simply changing their business names to get around the penalties, as in the case of bus operators running decrepit buses in our streets, manufacturers often resort to changing business names to evade penalties.

They also called for a mandatory destruction of products found to be substandard to prevent them from reselling the same steel products to ensure consumer protection as these poses severe hazards to consumers.

  • Carter Gumabay

    It’s really great that Sen. Bam Aquino has focused his attention on this issue. With the young senator leading the charge, hopefully we would see a better and safer Philippines free from the dangers of structures built with substandard steel.

  • Anna Lisa Marquez

    So many lives would be saved if this campaign against substandard steel us successful. We must completely rid our country of this very dangerous building materials. So many lives were lost and so much property have been damaged, and it could have all been avoided with the use of the proper steel bars.

  • William Teng

    There’s no 1 or 2 groups completely to blame for this widespread use of substandard steel in our houses and buildings… this problem became rampant because everyone involved had money in their minds and indifference in their hearts. They knowingly sold and used these products, knowing that the quality is inferior and therefore unsafe, but simply said “bahala na”… From the retailers and contractors, the manufacturers and distributors, all the way up to the DTI officials who failed in their responsibilities to inspect these products — everyone had a hand in this, so everyone of them had a hand in those properties and lives lost after the earthquakes.

  • Dina Dela Cuesta

    The DTI should step up their game and be more aggressive regarding this issue. They should have stricter measures regarding the steel being put out in the market, and they should impose penalties to those companies caught with substandard steel such as Dragon Asia, Cathay Pacific, Continental, Mackay and Somico.

  • Marlowe Pitogo

    “An official from the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR), Undersecretary Lesley Cordero, told the committee that many of the houses and buildings in the Visayan region that were destroyed during the onslaught of super-typhoon “Yolanda” were made of low quality steel.”
    This is not new, only that it is only now that the government has slowly focused its attention to this very fact. Senator Bam needs all the help he can muster to correct the situation.

  • Carlos Quidlat

    The revelation that about half of the hardware stores in the Philippines are selling substandard steel bars is not new. In fact the number is conservative especially if one considers that about two-thirds of the stores are located in the rural areas. Because even in the metropolis the products are sold. There is a need for government to tighten its policy and intensify its campaign in running after the people behind the proliferation of these products.

  • Veronica Sanchez

    What has the government done against the rampant sale of substandard steel? This issue should not only be confined to the halls of the senate or a numbered memorandum. A strong nationwide campaign against the importation and sale of substandard steel should have commenced a long time ago.

  • Oliver Vicente

    These products could spell the difference between life and death and unless the government do something to stop these low quality steel from entering the markets, we will have more lives lost (God forbid another calamity strikes).

  • Aries Cabaya

    Good thing Sen. Bam Aquino seeks resolution to this issue. I just hope DTI will really intensify its monitoring on hardware stores that sell substandard steel and work hand in hand with BOC and other agency of the government to meet common goal of eliminating the use of substandard steel in building homes and other infrastructures.