BOC keeps close watch on steel billet imports from China

By Iris C. Gonzales, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 29 2012 10:37 AM | Updated as of Sep 29 2012 06:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has assured local steel manufacturers that the agency will keep a close watch on the illegal importation of “square bars” from China.

Deputy Commissioner Peter Manzano made this assurance during a meeting early this week with members of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI).

Manzano also requested the steel sector’s Industry Technical Expert (ITE) to closely coordinate with BOC on this matter.

PISI executives requested the meeting after the local steel industry received reports that several reinforcing bar manufacturers have imported “square bars” from China.

These “square bars” are actually billets, which are used as raw materials for the manufacture of reinforcing bars.

The term “square bars” is used in the description of shipments from China to qualify the imported goods as finished products and avail of nine to 17 percent tax rebate from the Chinese government depending on the type of steel product. The first importation was declared as “alloy steel” and had zero duty.

PISI sent a letter to BOC Commissioner Ruffy Biazon to conduct further investigation on the misdeclared steel imports from China.

During the meeting, PISI executives said other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), such as Malaysia and Indonesia, are subjecting the “square bars” to chemical and mechanical tests at their port of entry.

PISI, in a statement yesterday, said it would request the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to do the same through its Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) which every importer should secure before they can import the steel products.

“The ICC is used to determine the commodity’s source, which should have DTI accreditation. If the source is not accredited, the commodity will have to be tested if they are in compliance with the set standards,” PISI said.

PISI said the ICC would serve as an assurance that the importation is done properly. If the importers will claim that they are importing billets, then they have misdeclared, but if they claim that they are “square bars” they should be tested.

Two weeks ago, the PISI raised the alarm bells on the importation of 3,000 metric tons of supposedly finished steel products from China in the form of square bars.

The shipments come at a price lower than the input material, which industry players claim is an unfair practice.

PISI has written the Trade department regarding the importation of 3,000 metric tons of square bars that are actually semi-finished steel billets but imported as finished products and given a 17 percent tax rebate by the Chinese government.

The shipment of 3,000 MT of square bars arrived last August at the Harbor Center in Manila.