• Sub-standard cement, steel seen jeopardizing infra plan

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    CONSUMER welfare advocacy groups sought tougher actions from concerned government agencies against the proliferation of imported sub-standard construction materials currently flooding the local market even as the Duterte administration embarks on a massive infrastructure program.

    The National Coalition of Filipino Consumers (NCFC) has warned that unabated importation of low quality construction materials, specifically cement and steel, could prejudice the government’s infrastructure projects and endanger the lives of the people when earthquake and other calamities strike.

    “Cement and steel form the very foundation of our houses and buildings. Our government must ensure that sub-standard imported materials do not contaminate local supplies, especially since there has been a spate of destructive earthquakes and typhoons recently,” Oliver San Antonio, spokesman and counsel for the NCFC, said.

    “We need strong and quality materials, for example, for the P10-billion reconstruction program for Marawi City [Lanao del Sur]. It’s an important project that deserves only the best possible materials because we aim to restore lives and raise new hopes for the people affected,” he added.

    Earlier, the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) urged the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to issue immediately an alert order against a suspected P360-million worth of steel shipment from China at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority because it is an alleged tariff scam and the cargo is sub-standard.

    In a formal letter, UFCC president Rodolfo Javellana Jr. asked Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon for a thorough probe against importer Mannage Resources Trading Corporation “to protect the consumers from getting sub-standard products from unscrupulous businessmen.”

    A similar appeal was also made by cause-oriented group Advocate for Good Governance, through lawyer Argee Guevarra, saying there were at least a dozen domestic companies that should be subjected by the BoC to exhaustive investigation for technical smuggling of cement, for example.

    “The smuggled cement from Vietnam flood the local market and sold at very low price compared to locally produced cement, Guevarra added.

    Worse, he said, “the smuggled cement are already beyond their so-called effective shelf life or have expired, and extremely dangerous if used in construction.”

    Undervaluation of freight charges, according to Guevarra, is equivalent to around P1 billlion a month or P12 billion a year in potential revenue losses to the government.

    In December 2016, the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute, the umbrella organization for the local steel industry, revealed that “sub-standard and uncertified steel bars” were used in the buildings that were damaged during the 2013 Cebu and Bohol earthquakes.

    Sub-standard cement and steel were reportedly procured from China and Vietnam.

    The Department of Trade and Industry has implemented policies meant to ensure that architects and contractors use only high-quality building materials and came out moreover with proposals that tighten requirements for steel imports.

    Last June, it released a draft circular amending the implementing guidelines for the mandatory certification of steel products covered by the Philippine National Standards, mandating a higher sample size for steel imports testing.

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