House in a hurry to probe smuggling of poor quality steel

Published November 10, 2019, 3:55 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Ellson Quismorio

A Mindanao lawmaker hopes that the upcoming House inquiry on the alleged collusion in the smuggling of poor quality steel products would result in the crafting of a stricter law regulating the importation of construction materials in the country.

House of Representatives (Michael Varcas / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
House of Representatives

“We hope to be able to introduce major reforms to regulations on importation, inspection and testing of steel products as well as other construction materials,” said Agusan del Norte first district Rep. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun.

Fortun earlier filed House Resolution (HR) No. 379 to find out whether or not large steelmakers and officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) were in cahoots regarding the smuggling of substandard steel products.

The neophyte congressman said that, due to exigency, the House inquiry will be conducted jointly by the Committee on Trade and Industry chaired by Valenzuela City first district Rep. Weslie Gatchalian and the Committee on Mindanao Affairs chaired by Lanao del Norte first district Rep. Khalid Dimaporo.

This was in light of the death and destruction to property caused by a series of major earthquakes in Mindanao during the latter half of October.

“The resolution will be referred to two committees, namely, the Committee on Trade and Industry and the Committee on Mindanao Affairs. The Mindanao Affairs committee is taking cognizance because of the urgency of the matter in Mindanao,” said Fortun.

“The reason why we’re doing a joint committee hearing is for us to be able to commence the hearings soon. We know that the Committee on Trade and Industry is also loaded with several priority legislations that the House leadership wants acted on immediately. With Mindanao Affairs also handling the inquiry jointly with the Trade and Industry committee, we can proceed accordingly with the chair of either committee presiding over the hearings,” he explained.

The BoC earlier said that it was cracking down on undervalued steel importations amid reports of the proliferation of substandard QT or quenched tempered steel bars.

Such poor quality steel products could have compromised the structural integrity of some infrastructures in the country in the last 10 to 12 years, Fortun said.

Other House members Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo, and ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap have earlier Fortun’s resolution, saying those behind the proliferation of substandard steel should be dealt with.

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Manuelito Luna had bared that they have “sufficient evidence” to pin down those responsible for the alleged technical smuggling of billions of steel bars.

Assistant Customs Commissioner Philip Vincent Maronilla had disclosed that four to five big steel companies were being audited by the BoC. Steel Asia, one of the country’s biggest steel firms, is reportedly among the companies undergoing audit.

Between October 16 and 31, earthquakes reaching magnitudes of 6.3, 6.6, and 6.5 jolted the southern region of Mindanao, damaging thousands of structures as a result. Around a dozen people were killed by the tremblors.