By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will investigate the presence of substandard steel in the market even as the agency has vowed to bring back more construction materials products under mandatory certification.
The response was made in reaction to House Resolution 379 that called for an investigation on the alleged proliferation of substandard steel and cement products, considering the damage left in the wake of the recent earthquakes in Mindanao.
“We welcome this call and shall fully cooperate and support the investigation to be conducted in order to ensure that the public will not be harmed by substandard construction materials,” said DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Lopez said that under President Duterte’s administration, DTI has made stricter the rules on standard compliance. “We are including more products in the list of mandatory compliance and have even increased the sample size of products to be tested,” he said.
“We are adding more products in the mandatory compliance since many of them were released from the list. And since they are not subjected to mandatory testing, substandard products can come in,” the trade chief said.
For regulated steel products, such as rebars and angle bars, DTI has placed stricter standards and intensified monitoring and enforcement for both imported and locally manufactured products.
Some of these new guidelines include increasing the sample size for product testing, checking the Philippine Standard (PS) mark and standards of local manufacturing plants, and inspections at different stages of transport, such as pre-shipment, post-shipment, and audit in retail.
Lopez was reacting to allegations of corruption involving DTI officials and steel manufacturers saying such allegations run counter to the agency’s goal to protect consumers and strengthen local manufacturing industries.
He said DTI shall intensify the drive to continue the investigation to ensure that there’s no corruption in the system. He also would encourage third-party investigations, such as those led by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).
“We heightened the campaign against substandard products because it is not safe for consumers and unfair to local manufacturers who will face cheap competition. This, in turn, may shrink the country’s manufacturing base and lead to job losses. Clearly, smuggling substandard steel is detrimental to the mission of the agency,” he added.
For 2019 alone, the DTI-Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau has issued 61 Notices of Violation against erring establishments found distributing non-conforming steel products.