MANILA (Mabuhay) – Senator Bam Aquino warned that lives of 300,000 people are 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 thousands houses is no joke. That’s 300,000 lives we’re talking about,” Aquino said during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, which he chairs, on the rampant selling and distribution of substandard and smuggled steel in the country.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as Aquino said the available data is only for substandard reinforcement rebars alone and not for all substandard steel products, like angle bars.
“What happened in Bohol and Cebu during last year’s earthquake could happen again anytime and anywhere due to the use of substandard steel in some structures,” Aquino said
During the hearing, stakeholders, led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI), revealed that substandard and smuggled steel are being sold in different parts of the country.
From 2009 to 2013, the DTI’s market monitoring enforcement team discovered that 49 percent of outlets it visited in 61 provinces were selling substandard angle bars.
Last month, the agency confiscated 1,720 pieces of substandard steel products from several outlets in Caloocan and Malabon.
A similar operation by the DTI in Caloocan City in January led to the confiscation of 10,181 pieces of substandard steel bars and angle bars. Seven manufacturers and five traders were formally charged.
The Steel Angles, Shapes and Sections Manufacturers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (SASSMAPI) revealed that 45 percent of outlets in 18 provinces where they conducted test buy from 2011 to 2014 had substandard angle bars.
PISI, for its part, has called for stiffer penalties on manufacturers of substandard products and better enforcement of customs regulations to curtail rampant smuggling of inferior steel products principally from China.
PISI submitted to the Senate industry data that shows a large discrepancy in the figures China reports as having exported to the Philippines and BOC figures indicating the amount of steel products imported. The discrepancy amounts to nearly half a million metric tons of steel.
Aquino also assured stakeholders that he would work for the needed amendments to RA 7103 once the investigation is finished.
“Let’s tighten regulation on the steel industry,” Aquino said. “We want to make sure that the hard earned money of our countrymen is going to quality construction materials for their homes.”
The senator also called on the public to avoid patronizing substandard steel for their own safety.
“Siyempre, you want more value for money, sasabihin mo mura pero hindi mo lang alam, pag nadaanan ka ng bagyo o earthquake, posibleng ikamatay mo iyon. So the public needs to be warned about this problem,” he said.(MNS)