A group of steel industry leaders urged the Department of Industry (DTI) to file criminal charges against hardware store owners and local manufacturers found to be selling or producing substandard reinforcing steel bars (rebars), in light of a construction boom ushered in by the government’s “Build, Build, Build” initiative.
The Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (Pisi) had uncovered more evidence of stores in the Central Luzon provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Pampanga selling defective or low-quality rebars, said Joel Ronquillo, Pisi vice president for technical affairs.
Ronquillo said Pisi conducted a two-day “market test-buy” to verify reports that substandard rebars were still being sold in the domestic market.
Of 14 hardware stores in the Central Luzon provinces from which Pisi bought steel bar samples from Feb. 28 to Mar. 1, seven were found to be selling underweight rebars while another store sold a rebar that was not the standard length, according to the Pisi report.
He said his group asked the Metals Industry Research and Development Center for third-party testing.
“This is obviously a burden not only for the legitimate rebar producers and manufacturers, but for consumers using substandard rebars without their knowledge,” Ronquillo said in the group’s report.
In a recent interview, Judith Angeles, DTI Central Luzon director, said her office was aware of the complaints and has sent a DTI monitoring team to inspect hardware stores.
“We have issued notices of violation against those found to be selling defective steel products,” Angeles said.
In 2016, Pisi challenged sample tests done by the DTI on a shipment of deformed Chinese steel bars which passed through this free port.
In November last year, the Makati Regional Trial Court barred the release of imported products that have not been inspected and certified by the Bureau of Product Standards.
Pisi offered to partner with the DTI “to stop this deceitful selling practice of some hardware stores and prevent the proliferation of substandard reinforcing steel bars in the market [which] compromise the safety of the general public,” Ronquillo said.
Pisi president Roberto Cola had relayed the group’s recommendations to Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, who heads the department’s Consumer Protection Group.
Among the steel makers that Pisi identified in its report were Wan Chiong Steel, Real Steel, Metrodragon Steel, Phil Koktai and Merchant Steel.