An official of the Region 3 division of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has dismissed the graft allegations of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) against DTI Region 3’s Provincial Director Leonila Baluyut as “baseless, malicious and incriminating in nature.”
The rebuttal follows a news item the Manila Times published on Friday reporting that the PISI has filed a case with the Office of the Ombudsman in which it accused 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 deformed Chinese steel bars imported by the food company, Mannage Resources Trading Corp, without necessary permit.
In a statement forwarded to the media yesterday, DTI-3 Regional Director Judith Angeles denied PISI’s allegation about Baluyut. Angeles said, the provincial director (PD) had acted within the mandate and bounds of the law, rules and regulations being implemented by the trade department.
“I can’t see any irregularity in the performance of duty of PD Baluyut as far as the issuance of the provisional/conditional import commodity clearance to the applicant Mannage Resources Trading Corp,” Angeles said.
“PD Baluyut’s actions from the receipt of the application for Import Commodity Clearance to its issuance is sanctioned by the provisions on the laws on Import Commodity Clearance,” she added.
In the case it filed with the Ombudsman, PISI had alleged that DTI officials Cabochan and Baluyut have “abetted” the release of the 5,000 metric tons of deformed steel bars imported by Mannage from China without thorough tests and industry-accepted safety standards.
PISI claims the two officials gave Mannage provisional ICC after testing only three samples from the imported steel bars, instead of the standard procedure of testing at least 250 pieces of steel bars with experts from the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) before granting ICC.
DTI’s Angeles, however, said the PISI statements are “without merit” given that the testing of the Chinese steel bars was conducted “by an independent Testing Center.” Angeles also said that in the case of recent steel imports, the Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) conducted the testing.
“Further, considering that the Test Report issued by SGS-CSTC and MIRDC showing compliance with the requirements of the standards, the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS) endorsed the same to DTI-Zambales Provincial Office for the issuance of the import commodity clearance,” Angeles said.
Evaluation of the test report is entrusted to BPS and not to DTI-Zambales Provincial Office, she added.
Angeles said PISI’s “unsubstantiated and defamatory accusations” against Baluyut is “condemned to the highest level” by the DTI’s Region 3 division.