2nd largest steel importer tagged for smuggling
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has filed complaints against a businesswoman and a broker in the Department of Justice for allegedly smuggling steel angle bars from China through the Port of Manila in January.
Customs Commissioner Francis Sevilla took action against Shine Rapadas Montes, owner of Thunder Birds Trading based in Manila, and Customs broker Jolly Lareza for misdeclaring and undervaluing 25 freight containers of steel bars which arrived in five batches between Jan. 2 and 5.
The entire cargo was declared as steel bars, clamps, flexible tubes and hinges. An inspection later revealed, however, that the containers were loaded with angle bars that are used for trusses or frames for structures like billboards, transmission towers and bridges.
BOC data showed that Thunder Birds was the second largest importer of steel products in 2013, bringing in about 7.6 million kilos of iron and steel products into the country.
Sevilla said its January importation was also illegal as it lacked a certification from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Bureau of Product Standards.
According to the bureau, Thunder Birds never applied for product certification and was not a registered Philippine standard license holder for any steel product. The certification is a government requirement intended to curb the proliferation of substandard steel products in the local market.
The company misdeclared its import entries to evade payment of the additional safeguard duty worth P1.6 million, the BOC added. It also stated that the shipment from China weighed only 175 metric tons when it was actually 420 metric tons.
The firm paid duties and taxes amounting only to P1.4 million instead of P4.5 million.
Local steel manufacturers have been asking the government to stop the entry of smuggled steel products that are being sold at a much lower price, harming the local industry and putting some 20,000 jobs at risk.
The Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (Pisi) and its member-associations recently warned that smuggled steel products were not compliant with Philippine safety standards, posing a risk to public safety. Recently, a Pisi technical team sent to inspect structures damaged by disasters in Bohol and Leyte provinces found widespread use of substandard construction materials.
Montes and Lareza face charges for violating the 1964 Philippine Standardization Law, the Tariff and Customs Code and several regulations issued by the Bureau of Product Standards and the DTI.
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