SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano has green-lighted the conduct of a congressional investigation into the proliferation of alleged substandard steel products in the country to ensure public safety in the aftermath of the series of earthquakes that hit Mindanao last month.
“We cannot compromise public safety following deaths and destruction because of a series of earthquakes in Mindanao. The House of Representatives will look into the steel smuggling in the country and make accountable those who are behind this illegal activity,” Cayetano told reporters.
Cayetano sounded the alarm on the structural integrity of various structures in the countryside due to alleged unabated steel smuggling.
He also joined the observation that steel smuggling could have compromised the structural soundness of some infrastructure in the country in the last 10 to 12 years.
“Congress will work on measures to address the steel smuggling because we cannot just sit down and wait for a big disaster to hit us,” Cayetano stressed.
He cited the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Kadingilan, Bukidnon last November 18 which caused damage to several homes and buildings and killed at least 22 people in Cotabato, South Cotabato, Maguindanao and Davao del Sur.
Last April, a supermarket building in Porac, Pampanga collapsed following the magnitude 6.1 quake which hit Luzon.
Cayetano raised the need for the House of Representatives to update the martial law-era National Building Code to ensure public safety.
Agusan del Norte Rep. Fortun earlier filed House Resolution No. 379 which was jointly referred to the committee on trade and industry and on Mindanao affairs.
The lawmaker expressed fears that substandard steel endangers the lives of people, particularly those living and working in high-rise buildings that might collapse when a high-intensity earthquake hits the country.
The measure was filed after it was reported that the continuous smuggling and proliferation of substandard steel products resulted from the collusion between large steelmakers and officials of the DTI and Bureau of Customs.
The House will also work on the passage of a law seeking stricter regulation on the importation, inspection and testing of steel products as well as other construction materials.
The Consumers Union of the Philippines, the Alyansa ng mga Gurpong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Mamamayan (AGHAM party-list), the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute and the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines all sounded the alarm on the proliferation of substandard construction materials, “posing grave threats on the lives and properties of Filipinos and muddling the integrity of the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program.”
Fortun earlier said the situation is the offshoot of smuggling of steel products “with misdeclared grades, length, sizes and weights as well as replacement by local steel manufacturers of micro-alloyed (MA) steel bars with quenched-tempered (QT) steel bars without the full knowledge of the design engineering community as well as the end-users.”