Group sees graft in OK of China steel imports
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A steel industry group has filed a case for graft at the Ombudsman against two officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), who were key to a DTI decision to clear the importation of at least 5,000 metric tons of deformed steel bars from China.
Roberto Cola, president of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (Pisi), in a case filed at the Ombudsman, accused the two DTI officials of “favoring” Mannage Resources Trading Corp., the steel bars’ importer, when they issued the import commodity clearance (ICC) for the shipment on April 18.
The steel bars have been held here since April on Pisi’s request due to fears that these were smuggled from China and were substandard.
Pisi requested Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina to hold the shipment.
Ann Claire Cabochan, director in charge of the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS), and Leonila Baluyut, the DTI Zambales director, were named respondents in the graft case filed by Cola.
When DTI issued the ICC, the seized shipment “had not yet undergone the prior, complete and successful testing” under existing industry laws, Cola said in the complaint.
According to him, Cabochan and Baluyut should be held “criminally responsible for giving undue advantage and benefit to importers … who are consequently favored by their actions.”
Cola also said the manner by which the BPS and DTI conducted the testing, sampling and certification of the steel bars was “contrary to law, administrative issuance and industry practice.”
He said the quantity of the shipment required a sampling of 250 pieces, instead of the three samples tested by the BPS.
“The testing was also made in the absence of industry technical experts,” he said.
But Judith Angeles, DTI Central Luzon director, said Cabochan and Baluyut acted “within the mandate and bounds of the law.”
“I can’t see any irregularity in the performance of duty of [Baluyut] as far as the issuance of the provisional or conditional [ICC] to the applicant, Mannage Resources Trading Corp.,” Angeles said in a June 3 statement.
At a press conference here last week, Baluyut said she would stand by her action after describing the lawsuit as “character assassination” aimed at her and Cabochan.
“I’ve done my job and there was no graft,” she said.
The test results released by the BPS on May 16 showed that the 4,929 metric tons of deformed steel bars “passed the mechanical, chemical and physical tests” required by law, Baluyut said. She said the import value of the steel bars was pegged at $1.6 million.
“It is up to the BOC (Bureau of Customs) if it will release [the imported steel bars],” she said.
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