Industry groups want post-shipment testing on steel, cement imports retained

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Cranes are seen at the Port of Manila in this 2011 file photo. -- BW FILE PHOTO

By Anna Gabriela A. Mogato

INDUSTRY groups in a press briefing scheduled Monday, Oct. 16, are expected to appeal anew to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to retain the post-shipment testing for steel and cement imports, following reports of two draft orders that the said rule will be removed.

Federation of Philippine Industries Chairman Jesus L. Arranza had already written a letter to the DTI earlier last week, saying that the Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines had already raised its concern on allowing the release of cement imports from the ports before pre-shipment test results — which are conducted overseas — are released.

“A draft provision that recall orders will be made for unsafe steel and cement is not reasonable because these will already be widely distributed and be part of houses and buildings,” Mr. Arranza said in his letter, which noted further:

“With the expected building boom, we should be making sure that all the materials coming in follow local regulations. Loosening regulations is tantamount to risking the public’s safety.”

The Philippine Statistics Authority’s August 2017 report shows that steel and iron imports increased by 18.1% in the first eight months to $2.59 billion in a yearly comparison. There is no new data yet available for cement imports.

Mr. Arranza added that importers should also consult with DTI regarding complaints by consumer and trade groups “to verify which companies are the ones involved in the importation of the reported substandard products.”

Philippine Iron and Steel Institute’s Roberto M. Cola and United Filipino Consumers and Commuters President Rodolfo B. Javellana, Jr. are also expected at Monday’s press briefing to explain their position on this matter.

DTI revised rules on steel and cement imports earlier this year, amending a few guidelines under the Philippine National Standards, such as requiring tags on all steel products and increasing sample sizes to ensure consumer safety.

However, it was reported in August that about 350,000 expired, mislabeled and unlabeled cement had circulated in Metro Manila, La Union, Davao and Caloocan while substandard steel bars were found to be used in Visayas last July.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in an earlier interview there is no decision yet, meaning that both pre-shipment and post-shipment testing will still be followed.

“One thing’s sure is that we always have to assure product compliance and safety for the consumers, whether we do pre-shipment and post-shipment or post-shipment or pre-shipment only. That’s the one undergoing a study because what we are only talking about now is if you passed the pre-shipment, then you’re good to go, but the local manufacturers also want to have a post-shipment testing,” he said, adding:

“In the current draft, we have a pre-shipment and post-shipment, but the post-shipment is for verification. If you pass here (in the pre-shipment) with flying colors, which means within the three-to-seven days that you already got the strength for 28 days of the cement, then you already pass. Once the shipment reaches the port, there will be a verification test still, but the shipment can be immediately released (without the need to wait for the results). But if you didn’t pass, then you’ll have to wait for the results.”