Solon warns of House probe into tampered steel products

A VETERAN party-list lawmaker has warned that a congressional inquiry might be called to investigate the alleged collusion among government regulatory agencies and local steel makers to tamper the correct standards of steel products being used in constructing commercial and high-rise buildings in the country.

Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) partylist Rep. Lito Atienza lamented the country has talented Filipino architects and structural engineers but the problem is the seeming corruption in government agencies and local government units responsible in issuing building permits and in strictly adhering the national building codes.

Atienza expressed belief local steel makers are not violating laws related to manufacturing steel products, but when they stretch the law by colluding with government agencies to have a grade 40 steel bar passed as grade 60, that is what worries him.

“Lives are at stake here, especially we are located in a seismic area, there should be no short-cut and they [steel makers] should strictly comply with international steel standards; we will investigate them to find out if they are fooling us,” said Atienza.

Last early Saturday, nine people were killed and 60 others injured following a series of earthquakes that hit Itbayat, Batanes.

Engineer Emilio Morales, former chairman of Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines (ASEP), also said during the forum that in the face of recent quakes in the region, the stability of locally manufactured steel bars for high-rise buildings are something to worry about.

Morales added substandard construction materials, particularly reinforced steel bars (rebars), are still being used to build high-rise commercial buildings and residential condominiums in key business districts.  

Based on a study Morales conducted a decade ago with a title “A Clear and Present Danger’, he enumerated the real the dangers of quenched tempering (QT) process.

Apparently, China and Taiwan have already banned the use of QT bars in constructing high rises.

“I am alarmed by Engineer Morales’ study and its findings. We should protect lives and property at all costs since the Philippines is a seismic belt country. Lives are more important than profit by big businesses. If there is corruption in the dealings between business and government, we will ferret this out,” Atienza added.

Substandard rebars find their way in construction sites, Morales added, due to the inaccurate way of testing steel products in the country.

He also said substandard construction materials, particularly rebars, would not withstand a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

Atienza vowed to personally work closely with Morales to find ways to address the issue.

“I am particularly alarmed by the lack of proper testing and labeling of steel rebars.  We should not wait for the ‘Big One’ to strike before we act to save thousands of lives,” said Atienza.