Subic steel importer sues Lina, other execs
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A shipment of deformed steel bars from China was released to its importer last month, after its entry was blocked by a steel industry group in April.
But Lawrence Daniel Sy, president of the importing firm, Mannage Resources Trading Corp. (MRTC), filed a graft complaint against five former officials of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), including former Commissioner Alberto Lina, and members of a steel industry group, for freezing the shipment containing 4,929 metric tons of deformed steel bars.
Sy also sued officials of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (Pisi), the group which urged the government to seize the $1.6-million shipment that arrived here on April 22. Pisi believed the steel bars had not passed Philippine standards.
“This case is a clear example of using and mobilizing the apparatus of government, particularly the [BOC] to cause undue injury to citizens and … [providing] undue advantage to certain parties and sectors,” Sy said in the 19-page complaint filed at the Office of the Ombudsman on June 30.
Pisi officials described the complaint as harassment. “Pisi will not be cowed by this [complaint] and will continue to fight smuggling,” said its president, Roberto Cola, in a text message on Wednesday.
Cola said MRTC should comply with testing requirements for its shipment and answer valuation issues.
Cola and fellow Pisi officers Jesus Arranza ans William Ranaga were named private respondents to the graft complaint filed against Lina, and former BOC officials Erwin Mendoza, Arturo Lachica, Francis Tolibas and Reynaldo Yacat.
Sy said the respondents conspired to delay the release of the shipment despite MRTC’s compliance with importation requirements.
Lawyer Ernelito Aquino, BOC Subic district collector, said MRTC had paid duties and taxes for the steel bars, prompting him to allow the release of the shipment on June 22.
“[The shipment] is already at the disposal of the owner,” Aquino said. The shipment was held for two months by the BOC Port of Subic because of fears that the steel bars were substandard and would be sold in the local market.
The Department of Trade and Industry, however, declared that the steel bars had met the standards set by the government.
In the complaint, Sy said he was under contract with Topway Builders Inc. to supply and deliver nearly 5 million metric tons of steel bars at an agreed price of P154 million but because of the delay, the buyer eventually backed out of the deal and transacted with another supplier.
“In sum, the action of Commissioner Lina … and private respondents gave unwarranted benefits to other companies in the same line of business specifically those under Pisi,” said the complaint.
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