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DTI tightens rules on cement, steel imports

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is imposing tougher rules on imported construction materials such as cement and steel to ensure the safety of consumers, especially in line with the recent earthquakes that have rocked the country.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said yesterday his agency is coming out soon with a new Department Administrative Order (DAO) mandating a higher sample size for steel imports testing.

The new DAO on steel will be on top of a recently issued DAO on new guidelines for mandatory certification of Portland and blended hydraulic cement.

“As you know, we’re trying to institute more measures to ensure quality standards. We’re trying to avoid substandard, especially with the frequency of earthquakes so we want to ensure that steel and cement are of right standards to assure safety of our fellow Filipinos,” Lopez said.

For the new DAO on steel imports, Lopez said the DTI would try to scrap the existing practice requiring only three sample pieces for testing.

“We will issue a new DAO that will change the sampling size because now we’re getting only three pieces no matter how big the shipment is. So we’ll change the sampling size, we’re just finalizing the number so that we can more or less increase the amount of steel to be tested,” Lopez said.

“The problem with the sampling size is its only three pieces no matter how big the shipment is, so it seems not proportionate. We feel it is not the right sampling size and it’s not representative of the entire shipment,” he added.

Lopez said the DTI is currently looking at a formula in which a sample size of 100 pieces will be taken for every 5,000 metric tons of steel shipment.

He said the DTI targets to come out with the new DAO in two weeks’ time to not more than a month.

Meanwhile, the DTI has also issued an update from a previous order on the issuance of the import commodity clearance (ICC) for imported cement

The DAO requires the application of the Philippine Standards licenses on foreign producers of cement imports and ICC on cement imports, as well as the setting of a required minimum paid capitalization of P20 million for all the cement importers to weed out fly-by-night importers.

“The DTI issued a revision of this order to help safeguard the safety of consumers by requiring the strict conduct of standards compliance tests on cement imports,” Lopez said.

“This new DAO will also help ensure that imports into our country are held to the highest standards of product safety,” he added.

The Philippine Iron and Steel Institute earlier pointed out that investigations on the October 2013 earthquake in Cebu and Bohol revealed substandard and uncertified steel bars were used in the damaged buildings and infrastructure.

With the Philippines located in an earthquake zone and typhoon area, the group said the best disaster prevention is to prevent sub-standard steel products from being sold in the market.

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