(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Several lawmakers yesterday sought a congressional investigation of the reported smuggling and proliferation of substandard steel products in the local market to determine those behind the anomalies.
Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun filed House Resolution 379, which called on the House Committee on Trade and Industry to immediately conduct an inquiry amid fears that substandard steel could be used in the reconstruction of buildings damaged by earthquakes in Mindanao.
The series of quakes damaged some 30,000 buildings in various provinces.
Joining Fortun were Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap.
The bill's authors said they wanted to get to the bottom of the alleged collusion between large steelmakers and some corrupt officials and employees of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Customs. 'This seeming grand deception may have led to the rise in the past 10 to 12 years of structurally compromised infrastructures that may not be able to withstand high intensity quakes, thus endangering the lives of millions of Filipinos, Fortun said.
Ungab and Barbers said contractors who had been using the alleged smuggled below-par materials, including undersized steel bars, should also face justice.
'Those involved in the alleged collusion should be held accountable and dealt with accordingly, after due investigation, said Ungab, chairman of the committee on appropriation.
'The call of Congressman Fortun to investigate the proliferation of supposed substandard steel products should be prioritised to ensure public safety, Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said.
Castelo, vice chairman of the committee on Metro Manila development, said 'heads must roll because we cannot toy with the lives of other people.
Yap called on House leaders to act on the measure at once.
'With the series of strong earthquakes in Mindanao, I could not help but cringe at the fact that some of the structures in the country may not be, and no longer be, structurally ready for calamities like these. Substandard materials continue to proliferate in the market, particularly steel products, and I strongly condemn these actions that endanger the lives of our people, he said. Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc, urged the DTI and local government units to frequently inspect and test construction materials like steel bars and cement to ensure they are of good quality.
'The use of poor-quality materials in these projects is one of the reasons why victims of super typhoon Yolanda do not want to accept and occupy the homes intended for them, Romero said.
The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has also initiated an investigation into the matter, saying it had found 'prima facie evidence to pin down those responsible in the alleged technical smuggling of billions of pesos worth of steel billets and stainless steel by unscrupulous importers and brokers in collusion with corrupt customs personnel.
Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero has assured Congress and the PACC that it would provide all the support and assistance in their investigation.
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