Questionable cement import to be tested abroad

A total of 118,000 bags of the Horse brand cement have reportedly been imported to Davao, but a fourth of the volume have already been sold in local outlets.

Salvador Valbuena, who heads the construction and real estate committee of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII), said in a press conference today called by the Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (CeMAP) that it is necessary to submit the process to an independent analysis to protect the interest and safety of the buying public.

The move came in the wake of reports that the same laboratory commissioned by the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) to test the Horse brand cement last July now allegedly declared the cement to be not substandard.

"How can a laboratory find the cement to have conformed to standards today what it found to be substandard in the past?" Valbuena asked.

He said they need a move "beyond reproach" to put an end to the problem.

"Once and for all, settle the issue whether there is truth and validity to the claim that the padlocked cement bags are indeed substandard," Valbuena said in his letter to DTI Assistant Secretary Merly Cruz requesting sample for the test. His request was granted, and Valbuena presented to the media the sample DTI gave his committee.

MindaNews sought clarification from DTI Southeastern Mindanao but Cruz and other officials were attending a close door meeting.

The DCCCII tasked Valbuena to investigate the problem so they can come up with a stand on the issue two months after reports said a fourth of the seized 118,000 bags of Portland cement had been sold in outlets in Davao and General Santos City.

The cement bags were held in a warehouse since July after it failed to pass the BPS requirements in the issuance of an import commodity clearance. The government has required the clearance for the distribution of imported products in the domestic market.

CeMAP earlier raised doubts on the cement's release to the market without the clearance and commended DTI for padlocking the warehouse on Oct. 17.

But CeMAP has questioned DTI's haste in handling the testing process in an alert on the issue presented to reporters today.

The group cited that DTI Davao sent the new cement sample to BPS on Oct. 11, 55 days after a sample sent on Aug. 14 was found to be tampered.

Ernesto Ordoñez, CeMAP president, told reporters there is a lot of explanation needed on the matter. He said he has pushed for an independent test of the cement long before.

He also invoked transparency as he claimed DTI did not give them a copy of the results of the tests on the third sample.

CeMAP called for a study on the conditions surrounding the chronology of events and also the enforcement of findings and timing to safeguard consumer safety and rights.

CeMAP stressed that the cement brand already failed two tests, one conducted by Holcim, a cement producer, and another by Geo Analytics, the BPS-accredited laboratory.

According to CeMAP, the Horse brand cement is substandard because it failed in three parameters in the two tests, namely, in autoclave expansion, insoluble residue, and compressive strength.

A failure on autoclave expansion, the CeMAP said, will result in the cracking of concrete and may cause collapse of concrete materials.

Structures built using the material could also reportedly collapse if the cement failed to attain the standard in three test ages. It will cause failure in attaining the needed load bearing requirements of the concrete during the different stages in construction.

The contamination of cement, as shown by the insoluble residue, downgrades the quality of cement, CeMAP pointed out.

The Philippine Product Safety and Quality Foundation, a partner of DTI in consumer advocacy, has echoed the call, saying it is the "over and above board" move that could settle the problem in order to prevent accidents from happening.

"We exhort our consumers to wait for the final findings from our test results before we purchase this cement. It can save us from a tragedy," Ma. Victoria C. Padilla, PPSQF's executive director, said.

The Singaporean privately owned laboratory, still unnamed, could give the results in a week's time, a cement executive said.