• Subic Customs releases controversial steel bars

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    SUBIC BAY FREEPORT: The Bureau of Customs (BoC) district collector here appeared headed for a clash with his superior, Commissioner Alberto Lina, who earlier ordered the seizure of some 5,000 metric tons of deformed reinforcement steels bars from China.

    Customs Subic chief, lawyer Enerlito Aquino, on Thursday, allowed the release of the controversial shipment, saying he was simply following the recommendation of the Department of Trade Industry  (DTI) officials who has given the go signal to release it.

    A group headed by the Customs legal department had earlier recommended to Lina to maintain the alert order until the case has been fully investigated.

    Lawyer Erwin Mendoza, the bureau’s acting director for legal service said it was prudent to “thresh out the issues against the subject shipment, if warranted under the circumstances.”

    The bureau issued the alert order on April 21 after the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute  (PISI) informed DTI and BoC that the shipment of 5,000 MT of deformed reinforcing steel bars imported by Mannage Resources Trading Corp. from China and unloaded at the Subic Bay Freeport, has no permits.

    Officials of PISI even charged two DTI executives – DTI Zambales provincial director Leonila Baluyut and Ann Claire Cabochan officer-in-charge and director of the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) – for graft, for clearing the said importation amounting to P95 million.

    The BPS had said the imported steel bars passed the quality tests conducted and was just doing its job in recommending the issuance of clearance for the shipment.

    It also strongly denied there was irregularity in the issuance of clearance for the imported steel bars.

    Customs officials, on the other hand, said it was keen on following its regulations to ensure the transaction was aboveboard.

    Mendoza also suggested that a 100-percent re-test of the shipment be conducted as the first quality testing was not reliable having been conducted without the presence of a local industry expert.  

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