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.
“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.