ASIDE from rice smuggling, the Senate is also set to conduct an investigation of the alleged proliferation of uncertified and substandard steel and the allegedly rampant smuggling of imported steel products into the country, which is being blamed for the death of hundreds of people in the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that devastated Bohol and Cebu last year.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, in filing Senate Resolution 564 cited the need for the proper Senate panel to look into the issue of substandard steel products in the country with the end in view of amending provisions of Republic Act 7103, or “The Iron and Steel Industry Act.”
Aquino in the resolution said a series of test buys conducted by the Philippine Iron & Steel Institute (PIS!) and Steel Angles, Shapes & Sections Manufacturers Association of the Philippines Inc. (SASSMAPI) resulted in discovery of substandard steel products being sold in hardware stores located in Caloocan City, Metro Manila.
The substandard steel products were also found to have no Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) or PS Mark, raising suspicions that these products had been smuggled into the Philippine market by unscrupulous traders.
The other confiscated products had PS Mark but failed the standard test conducted on them.
The test buys and standards enforcement operations also resulted in confiscation of thousands of pieces of uncertified and substandard reinforcement and angle bars from different hardware stores reported to be carrying substandard steel products.
Aquino noted that reinforcing steel bars (Rebars) are consumed more than any other steel product in the Philippines. In fact, he said, all building and infrastructure use rebars to ensure strength and integrity in their concrete foundations and structures.
Rebars are covered in the Philippine National Standards 49 (PNS49) as mandatory because the products are critical to public safety and should be manufactured from proper steel billets.
In the past years, however, it was reported that there had been a visible proliferation of substandard rebars in the market.
Aquino said the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in the provinces of Cebu and Bohol clearly showed the widespread use of substandard construction materials, which were found in majority of the damaged residential houses, public markets, bridges and other structures.
“Selling substandard steel is a question of greed and a question of corruption. That’s why we need to investigate this before we lose hundreds of lives to another earthquake or devastation, God forbid,” he added.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that a total of 222 individuals died in the earthquake.