MANILA – Senator Bam Aquino on Thursday said substandard steel products should be blamed for the death of hundreds of people in the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that devastated Bohol and Cebu last year.
"Hundreds of lives were lost because of substandard and inferior steel products used in houses and other infrastructure," said Aquino, who filed a resolution seeking to investigate the alleged proliferation of uncertified, substandard, and smuggled steel products in the country.
Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, said "selling substandard steel is a question of greed and a question of corruption."
"That’s why we need to investigate this before we lose hundreds of lives to another earthquake or devastation, God forbid," Aquino said in a press statement.
According to Aquino, he witnessed the devastation caused by the earthquake in a recent trip to several areas in Bohol.
"During my visit, I saw two houses just several meters apart. One was completely destroyed and the other was still standing after the earthquake," he said.
In backing up his claim, Aquino mentioned a report by the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) in the aftermath of the earthquake that there was widespread use of substandard bars and angle bars in the construction of residential houses and public structures such as public markets and bridges.
The senator also received reports from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), PISI and Steel Angles, Shapes and Sections Manufacturers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (SASSMAPI) on the rampant selling of substandard steel products like reinforcing steel bars or rebars in different parts of the country.
Rebars are used in construction of buildings and other infrastructure to ensure strength and integrity in their concrete foundations and structures.
In their respective reports, PISI and SASSMAPI said they purchased substandard steel products from hardware stores in Bulacan, while DTI seized thousands of uncertified products like rebars and angle bars from different hardware shops in Caloocan City.
The DTI said the confiscated steel products had no Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) or PS Mark, raising suspicions that they are smuggled into the country. The other confiscated products had PS Marks but failed the standard test conducted on them.
Earlier, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) confiscated P24 million worth of smuggled steel from China at the Manila port.
Also, the BOC filed smuggling-related cases against Shine Rapadas Montes, owner and proprietress of Thunder Birds Trading, for misdeclaring her firm’s importation of steel angle bars.