Proliferation of substandard steel to be probed by House panel

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    THE House committee on trade and industry will team up with the House committee on Mindanao affairs to investigate the proliferation of alleged substandard steel products in the country.

    Agusan del Norte Rep. Fortun said House Resolution No. 379 that he authored was also referred to the Mindanao affairs panel “because of the urgency of the matter in Mindanao.”

    “The reason why we’re doing joint committee hearing is for us to be able to commence the hearings soon,” he said, adding the joint panel will schedule the hearing soon.

    Fortun said the committee on trade and industry is “loaded” with several priority legislation that the House leadership wants acted upon immediately and with the Mindanao Affairs panel also handling the inquiry, the hearing can proceed accordingly with the chair of either committee presiding.”

    He said 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.

    Fortun said the House will 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.

    Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who chairs the House committee on appropriations, warned unscrupulous contractors and homebuilders that they can be “held accountable and dealt with accordingly, after due investigation.”

    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.”

    Assistant Customs Commissioner Philip Vincent Maronilla earlier said four to five steel companies were being audited by the BOC, including Steel Asia, one of the country’s biggest steel firms.

    He said the initial findings will be submitted to the Department of Finance and to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

    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 if 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.”

    The lawmaker is concerned that some steelmakers are labeling their re-bars or reinforcing bars as grade 60 in strength when they are only grade 40, which is the minimum requirement for reinforcing bars to be used in high-rise buildings and other major infrastructures.

    Just last April, a supermarket building in Porac, Pampanga collapsed when a magnitude 6.1 quake rocked Luzon.