Group asks Customs to seize China steel brought into Subic
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Insisting that the importation was irregular, a steel industry group petitioned the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to seize the 4,929 metric tons of deformed steel bars from China that had been granted a provisional import commodity clearance (ICC) by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
In its 13-page position paper released on June 7, the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (Pisi) said the DTI clearance for the steel bars was “fake, unlawful, illegal and unauthorized.” It said tests on which DTI relied had not complied with the product standards procedures.
The steel bars, consigned to Mannage Resources Trading Corp. (MRTC), have been held here since April owing to fears these would be sold in the local market.
The DTI issued the ICC after a May 16 report showed that samples of the shipment “passed the mechanical, chemical and physical tests” required by law.
Pisi said the provisional ICC was “not the lawfully issued permit contemplated by law for importation of products that require mandatory testing and certification.”
It also said the provisional ICC should not have been signed by Leonila Baluyut, DTI Zambales director, who was not the authorized signatory under the law.
Because of the pending case against DTI, the group asked Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina not to lift the alert order the agency issued after it was notified about the shipment’s arrival here.
On May 30, Pisi filed a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Ann Claire Cabochan, director in charge of the Bureau of Product Standards, and Baluyut, who, the group said, were key to DTI’s decision to clear the importation.
“Due to the pendency of the criminal action for graft and corruption against [the DTI officials], it is the responsibility and obligation of [BOC] to cease from processing the customs papers of the subject shipment,” Pisi said.
Instead, Pisi said, BOC must start seizing the shipment. It said the DTI action “not only opened the floodgates of the Philippine market to potentially substandard or noncompliant imported commodities [but] it also increased the risk of exchange or alteration of commodities subjected only to sampling and inspection after the issuance of a provisional ICC.”
MRTC president Lawrence Daniel Sy had complained about the delay in the shipment’s release.
“As far as we are concerned, we do not see any reason as to why [the release of the steel bars] is being prevented until now. We already complied with all necessary documents under Philippine laws,” Sy told reporters in Manila. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon
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