Alarm up on deformed steel bars from China

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The Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) has alerted the public and the construction sector over deformed steel bars from China that entered the country and which had been tested “in haste and utmost secrecy.”

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In a letter to Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr., PISI said only three samples of the 500,000 imported steel bars that weighed almost 5,000 metric tons were tested by the Bureau of Product Standard (BPS) in Subic, Zambales.

In contrast, locally produced steel of the same volume must have around 250 samples for testing jointly by the BPS, Bureau of Customs (BOC) and Federation of Philippine Industries.

The PISI said it was “very concerned” about the hasty testing of the China steel bars since there were instances in the past where samples were replaced prior to testing.

The institute cited a case in 2006 involving the hasty importation of 300 tons of steel bars without necessary permit by Kingson Trading Corp.

The case is pending with the Court of Tax Appeals.

The PISI warning over the deformed steel bars stemmed from the Cebu and Bohol earthquakes in October 2013 where collapsed buildings and houses were found to have been built using sub-standard imported steel bars without the required logo, a mark that would identify the manufacturer.

The current shipment in question was brought in by Mannage Resources Trading Corp., which was put up only last year and registered as a trading and food-related firm at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The firm had a capital of only P400,000, which is lower compared to the P95-million worth of rebars that it imported.

Its registered address in Bonifacio Global City is also being used by a different company.

Mannage’s president is said to be Lawrence Daniel Sy.

Earlier, the BOC office in Subic issued an alert order against the shipment for “lack of permit” but the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Subic office still issued Mannage a “provisional” import commodity clearance (ICC) to allow the cargo to be taken out of BOC’s custody.

The PISI had contested this because no law or department order authorizes the issuance of a provisional ICC much less a regular ICC since the shipment lacks a permit.

To protect the public, the institute asked Cristobal to order a new sampling and testing of Mannage’s shipment in the presence of industry representatives.

At present, the 5,000 tons of rebars are stored at the Subic port.

If the importer is found to be smuggling, the government or the PISI may file cases against Mannage and the DTI.

PISI Executive Director Jojo Magsajo earlier said there were an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 tons of steel bars from China smuggled into the Philippines in 2014.

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