Safety issue: Customs orders seizure of China steel
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Outgoing Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina ordered the seizure of some 5,000 metric tons of deformed steel bars that were shipped to Subic from China, following a complaint from a steel industry advocate group.
Lina also directed lawyer Ernelito Aquino, district collector of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the Port of Subic, to refrain from lifting the alert order previously issued by the BOC Intelligence Group over the shipment.
The steel bars, consigned to Mannage Resources Trading Corp., have been held here since April owing to fears that these would be sold in the local market.
Lina’s decision was made amid a legal battle between the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (Pisi), a steel industry advocate group, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) over the agency’s issuance of an import commodity clearance (ICC) for the shipment on May 19.
The DTI Zambales office issued the ICC following a
May 16 report which indicated that samples of the shipment passed the mechanical, chemical and physical tests required by law.
Lina affirmed the recommendations of lawyer Erwin Mendoza, acting director of BOC’s legal division, who said that tests made on the shipment had not followed procedures.
According to Mendoza, the Bureau of Product Standards should conduct another test to “settle this matter that is imbued with public interest.”
“After all, public safety requires due diligence. And due diligence, while it might be deemed as dilatory to trade facilitation, might be the one thing that could save lives: It is better to be safe than sorry,” Mendoza said in a June 6 BOC memorandum to Lina.
Citing a BOC circular, Mendoza said an industry technical expert should have observed the physical examination of the shipment that has been subjected to an alert order.
Mendoza said the shipment is still within the jurisdiction of BOC and remains intact and secured at the Naval Supply Depot compound inside this free port.
In an earlier statement, Pisi said the provisional ICC was “not the lawfully issued permit contemplated by law for importation of products that require mandatory testing and certification.”
The group also said the provisional ICC should not have been signed by Leonila Baluyut, DTI Zambales director, who was not the authorized signatory under the law.
After filing a graft case against DTI officials, the group asked Lina to keep the alert order on the shipment. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon
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