The Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) is pressing graft charges against two officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for allegedly clearing the release of P95-million worth of deformed steel bars imported from China by a food company without the necessary permit.
The importer, Mannage Resources Trading Corp. was put up last year with only P400,000 in capital and registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a food company operating as an importer and seller of “mostly food delicacies.”
In a case filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, PISI President Roberto Cola accused the DTI officials—Ann Claire Cabochan, the director-in-charge of the DTI’s Bureau of Product Standards (BPS), and Leonila Baluyut, the DTI director in Zambales—of being “criminally liable” for granting “provisional” import commodity clearance (ICC) for the Chinese steel bars.
Cola said that by issuing an unauthorized provisional ICC, the two officials have abetted the release of some 5,000 metric tons of deformed steel bars imported in mid-April by the food company—without subjecting the shipment to tests for determining that they met industry-accepted safety standards.
He said usual procedures point to sampling and testing at least 250 pieces of steel bars. However, only three bars from the steel that Mannage imported from China were tested.
Besides, these tests were done without experts from the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Thus, Cola said, Cabochan and Baluyut “bestowed undue advantage to importers such as Mannage.”
He went on to point out that issuing provisional ICCs with just cursory safety tests would pave the way for substandard products to enter the country, and if such products were used for construction, it could pose “extreme and grave danger to many lives.”
He further said that Baluyut and Cabochan “manifested conscious indifference to the consequences of their actions to the government, the public, the safety of the end user and consumers, and even to local producers or manufacturers.”
PISI had previously written to DTI Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. asking to order a new sampling and testing of Mannage’s shipment in the presence of industry representatives.
At present, the 5,000 tons of bars are held in the Subic port.
PISI Executive Director Jojo Magsajo had earlier pointed out that based on the discrepancy between the China’s export data and the Philippine import data for the year 2014, an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 tons of steel bars appears to have been smuggled into the country from China.