Bid to release China steel cargo questioned
OLONGAPO CITY—Steel industry representatives are questioning efforts by trade and industry officials to have a shipment of at least 5,000 metric tons of deformed steel bars from China released from the Subic Bay Freeport.
The products passed standards set by the government, said Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) officials here.
But tests that the DTI supposedly made on the steel bars were done without steel industry representatives, who questioned the shipment that arrived in the Port of Subic on April 21 for consignee Mannage Resources Trading Corp.
Roberto Cola, president of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute, had asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to seize the shipment “to ensure [the] safety of the general public and consumer protection from substandard steel products in [this] seismic region.”
Leonila Baluyut, DTI Zambales director, said the 4,929 metric tons of deformed steel bars passed mechanical and chemical requirements for imported steel bars based on the initial evaluation done by the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS).
Baluyut said the import value of the steel bars was pegged at $1.6 million.
She said the Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC) of the Department of Science and Technology examined samples of steel bars shipped to the Subic Bay Freeport last month.
But Cola said he would ask the DTI to repeat the random sampling and allow their representative to witness the inspection.
“[Baluyut] did not grant [our request to be present at the collection of test samples]. They already obtained samples,” Cola told the Inquirer on Friday.
Cola had petitioned the BOC to slap the importer with a warrant of seizure and detention (WSD). A WSD could be issued should the DTI and BPS rule that the steel bars were substandard, said lawyer Ernelito Aquino, BOC Subic district collector.
“The only test that was required [to determine the quality of] the steel bars was [for] the physical component. . . the test result [was] sent to us by an independent inspection company from the shipment’s country of origin (China),” Baluyut said.
She said tests conducted in China by SGS, an international certification company, “showed that the steel bars met only two of the three required components.”
The test results were attached to the application filed for an import commodity clearance (ICC) at the DTI and BPS, she said.
“The BPS instructed me to issue a provisional ICC while sampling was carried out,” said Baluyut.
She said the provisional ICC would allow the importer to transfer the steel bars from the ship to a warehouse inside the free port.
“The provisional or conditional ICC is not a certificate that will allow importer to sell or transfer [the steel bars] outside [the free port],” Baluyut said.
The BPS had yet to issue an ICC since the MIRDC had not released the result of its physical test on the steel bars, said Enrique Tacbad, DTI Zambales chief of the consumers protection division.
“Pending the [issuance of the] ICC by the BPS, the importer is not allowed to transfer the steel bars outside its warehouse,” Tacbad said.
The BOC has scheduled a hearing on May 17 to address the complaint on the steel bar shipment. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon
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