The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) denied accusations that the agency is covering up for steel manufacturers at the expense of the safety of Filipino consumers.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez noted that the department had tightened procedures to ensure that steel products in the market meet standards.
“The DTI is not and will not cover up [for] any manufacturer, steel makers or producers of steel products, nor will it compromise the safety standards that may endanger the lives of the consumers or the public in general,” Lopez said in a statement sent to The Manila Times.
“In fact, DTI has tightened the steel products’ certification requirements and procedures by increasing the sample size of products to be tested per shipment, and per factory, among others,” he added.
The safety of quench tempered (QT) steel bars was earlier questioned by former senator Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng and structural engineer Emilio Morales. They said QT steel bars were not safe to use, especially in high-rise buildings.
QT rebars are manufactured by rapid cooling of plain carbon steel by a fine water spray, resulting in a “steel bar with a higher composite yield and tensile strength than the parent material.”
Lopez, however, said several meetings, hearings and consultations were conducted to discuss issues on QT and thermo-mechanicallly treated (TMT) rebars.
He said these meetings were attended by the academe, consumer organizations, research and testing institutions, industry and professional associations, and a technical expert from Centre de Recherche Metallurgique, which is the originator of the TempCore brand.
“In addition, the DTI commissioned a study conducted by the Metals Industry Research and Development Center to compare the mechanical properties of coupled and welded QT/TMT rebars,” Lopez said.
He noted that the study found that QT and TMT rebars passed the mechanical properties of the standards for deformed bars such as tensile strength and yield strength.
“The metallurgical experts have spoken and they have confirmed that the QT process has been a technology used for over 40 years in many countries, until now, and proven to be up to standards,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the concerns raised by Coseteng and Morales had been addressed, as the department required all steel manufacturers to emboss all QT/TMT rebars with letter “Q” and “MA” for micro alloy bars.
“On the issue of use of QT/TMT rebars being unsafe for use in high-rise buildings, the DTI maintains that its mandate is to certify the conformance of steel bars itself based on the requirements of the particular Philippine National Standard and has nothing to do with its use and applications,” the DTI chief said. “The DTI cannot arrogate unto itself the functions and mandates of other offices as it will be intrusive for DTI to do the same,” he added.
Lopez noted that DTI does not have jurisdiction on the usage and application of steel bars, saying that the Structural Code of the Philippines “reminds the design engineers and the civil engineers of their responsibilities and accountabilities with regard to the use of QT/TMT rebars.”
“Again, the DTI checks on the product standards, not on the usage,” he said.