Speaker OKs probe on substandard steel smuggle

November 24, 2019

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano has greenlighted the investigation on the alleged rampant smuggling and selling of substandard steel in the country to ensure public safety in the aftermath of the deadly and destructive series of earthquakes that struck Mindanao.

Cayetano sounded the alarm on the structural integrity of various structures in the countryside due to alleged unabated steel smuggling, especially with the latest 5.9 magnitude temblor that struck Kadingilan, Bukidnon last November 18, causing damage to several homes and buildings and death toll that has reached at least 22 people in Cotabato, South Cotabato, Maguindanao and Davao del Sur due to the earthquakes.

“We cannot compromise public safety following deaths and destruction because of a series of earthquakes in Mindanao. The House of Representatives will look into the steel smuggling in the country and make accountable those who are behind this illegal activity,” Cayetano told reporters in an ambush interview when asked about the alleged smuggling of steel billets resulting in the supposed deceitful selling of quenched tempered (QT) steel bars in the country.

The Speaker reiterated that the House of Representatives will update the martial law-era National Building Code to guarantee public safety.

He said steel smuggling could have compromised the structural soundness of some infrastructure in the country in the last 10 to 12 years.

Cayetano welcomed Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun’s House Resolution (HR) No. 379, which seeks to investigate the alleged collusion between large steelmakers and officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) that made possible the smuggling of substandard steel products.

Fortun said the House committee on Mindanao affairs would team up with the House committee on trade and industry to jointly probe the  smuggling of steel products.

“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,” Fortun said earlier.

Recently, the BoC announced that it was cracking down on undervalued steel importations amid reports of substandard QT steel bars while Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Manuelito Luna bared that the parallel inquiry of the agency headed by chairman Dante Jimenez found sufficient evidence that will pin down those responsible for the alleged technical smuggling of billions of steel bars.

Assistant Customs Commissioner Philip Vincent Maronilla said that four to five big steel companies were being audited by the BoC.

“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

Earlier, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo, and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap backed Fortun’s call for probe, saying government officials and contractors who have been behind the smuggled below-par materials, including undersized steel bars should also face justice.