Solons support House probe into billion-peso substandard steel scam
Recent strong quake in Mindanao fuel fears of “the big one”
Speaking to the media during the South East Asian Games hosted by the Philippines, Congressmen Manny Lopez (1st district of Manila) noted with alarm that should a big earthquake hit the major fault lines in the Philippine capital, large portions of Metro Manila where high rise and government infrastructure are standing, would be directly affected. “We cannot compromise pubic safety following the deaths and destruction due to the strong earthquake hat hit Bukidnon, Cotabato, Maguindanao and Davao this week, and the series of strong tremors that preceded it in October and November,” the Tondo solon said. Karlo Nograles (1st district of Davao) Nograles lauded the vigilance of his House colleagues, and said he is adding his voice in support of the probe “to assure the structural integrity of various high-rise structures in the country which may have been built using weak steel.” Last month, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano backed House Bill 379, filed by Rep. Lemuel H. Fortun, which detailed the alleged corrupt practices in the industry, in to ensure the safety of the public after the series of earthquakes that hit Mindanao in October and November. High rise structures in danger The House Committee on Trade and Industry announced its investigation in late October following the quakes in Mindanao that claimed over 20 lives, and to verify allegations of technical smuggling, or under-valuation, of steel billets used to manufacture quenched tempered (QT) steel rebars in the Philippines, due to the “collusion between large steelmakers and officials of the DTI and BoC.” Fortun, whose province, Agusan del Norte, was badly hit by a series of shocks over the last two months, urged the committee to look into the alleged connivance between the government and the biggest big steel manufacturer in the country, which is reportedly headed by a former undersecretary of the DTI. Fortun’s resolution was anchored on fears expressed by real estate developers and construction builders, as well as consumer groups — specifically buyers of high rise condominiums all over the country — over reports of continued selling of QT rebars by big steel manufacturers, that may render thousands of high rise structures unsafe in the event of a high-intensity earthquake. QT steel banned in earthquake-prone countries Five countries were identified in the resolution to have banned QT steel when its government regulators discovered, through stringent testing processes, that QT steel is only strong on the outer layer due to a structurally-compromising quenching process. Like the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and US are located in highly seismic zones. Fortun charged that the DTI has been certifying QT steel rebars to be Grade 60 when they are only Grade 40.