Group seeks DTI action vs substandard steel

Published February 2, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


A product safety and quality group has urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to respond to its written complaint on the continued proliferation of unscrupulous steel suppliers despite earlier crackdown.

In a letter to DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Philippine Product Safety and Quality Foundation (PPSQF) Chairman Ernesto M. Ordoñez demanded an explanation why these traders have not been charged yet.

Ordoñez said he personally delivered last year a PPSQF letter to the offices of Undersecretary Ruth Castelo for the implementation of two commitments this year. He lamented that there was no reply to the letter.

In the letter dated January 29, 2020, Ordoñez said DTI committed to implement in 2019 two policy rules on product quality standards. But has so far DTI failed to comply despite filed complaints.

The first policy commitment was for DTI to respond to written complaints (with evidences). The second promise by DTI was to run after big manufacturers of substandard materials — once the retailers are caught.

“If a complaint is submitted to DTI with proof, it should be responded to in writing as to what action was taken. We know of several complaints with proof (test results) that have no response at all,” he said in the letter to Lopez.
“Despite the many retailers found guilty no manufacturer has ever been given a formal charge.”

Meneleo Carlos, PPSQF chairman emeritus, also noted that used to be quality standards on construction materials for strict enforcement by DTI and its attached Bureau of Product Standards (BPS).

“The standards are there, but manufacturers are not mandatorily inspected. Or the policy may be if there are violations, you (complainants) can go to court. But inspection is not mandatory,” said Carlos.

With government’s extensive trade liberalization policy, enforcement of the quality standards has apparently eroded.

Local steel manufacturers Steel Asia and Philsteel both expressed disappointment that government’s failure to fully stop distribution of substandard steel is derailing potential huge investments in an integrated steel mill in the country.

“The sector is in a very bad state. We can only do best if we have an integrated steel mill. That’s been our dream in the country. But we should have mandatory standards on quality,” said Abeto A. Uy, chair of Philsteel Holdings Corp.

Steel Asia similarly hopes investments in capital-intensive integrated mill will come in. “(But) who in the right mind will invest millions in dollars on a serious integrated steel mill if they can’t participate in 40 percent of the market (filled with cheap, substandard supplies),” said Steel Chairman Benjamin O. Yao.

Philsteel warned consumers to check on Total Coated Thickness (TCT) of GI sheets before buying. TCT is the combined thickness of the steel and the metallic coating of zinc and aluminum of the GI sheet. It protects the GI sheet from rust and has high heat reflectivity, cutting electricity cost.

In the same way, Steel Asia also warned the public of unscrupulous manufacturers that deliberately roll a rebar with a minus 10 percent or more variance stressing these lightweight products are unsafe, and will not perform to the design specification and standard.”

Experts in minerals believe that an integrated steel mill will be a major factor for industrialization of the Philippines.

“An integrated iron and steel processing industry is a backbone of the economy. If you go to China, all provinces in China has at least one integrated iron and steel mill. (Fortunately) we have all the raw materials here. There are other countries that don’t have the raw materials, but they were able to put up downstream processing industries,” said former Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Horacio C. Ramos.

Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) President Roberto M. Cola said that the use of substandard steel materials was feared to cause more disasters as unscrupulous manufacturers take advantage of government’s massive “Build, Build, Build” to distribute the poor quality materials.

“Some of the buildings that collapsed during the recent earthquakes are government projects with contractors—public schools, public markets, barangay hall. In Taal, many government structures collapsed because contractors are doing a short-cut,” said Cola.

PISI has been waiting for DTI’s punitive action against manufacturers of substandard steel that were found to be of poor quality through local hardware.

It has filed with DTI evidences on the violation based on its own market monitoring under which it caught 41 out of 63 hardware stores selling poor quality steel materials. Almost 40 percent or 62 retailers were found selling substandard rebar out a total of 164 hardware inspected.

It secured evidences of the violations after conducting “test buys” of the material. The materials were then examined for quality and safety by the Metals Industry Research and Development Council (MIRDC).

The rebars were found to be underweight, undersized or failed to have the needed specifications in tensile strength, elongation ,and lug height.
The poor quality rebars were found nationwide–La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan, Mindoro, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Cagayan de Oro, Lanao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Davao, Cotabato and Zamboanga.