BusinessMirror

Morally responsibl­e government officials

- Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza

Why was DTI’S testing rules on steel bars amended only after I questioned them? And why do government officials have to wait for things to become a public concern before they act to correct them? Perhaps, those concerned government officials can enlighten us on these issues.

IHAVE always been particular about good values in life, both as a parent and as Chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI). In fact, guided by a conscience that makes me feel morally responsibl­e to correct things that I see to be not morally right, I have been sued for doing my responsibi­lity as an advocate for the protection of the local industry and consumer’s causes.

I am referring to the importatio­n of 5,000 metric tons of steel bars brought into the country in a port north of Metro Manila, where only three steel bars were drawn by government regulators for testing from the entire lot of the imported steel bars. Of the three samples drawn, only one was tested for its compliance to prescribed standards. The two other bars were stored for future testing, should there be a need for another round of tests. I find that ridiculous: Testing only one steel bar sample from 5,000 metric tons of imported steel bars!

This is also unfair to local manufactur­ers of steel bars that are required to draw a sample for every 20 metric tons of steel bars they produce.

In the tussle whether the three samples were enough to represent the entire universe of the 5,000 metric tons of imported steel bars, I was not really convinced by the DTI response that it complies with the requiremen­t of the law.

So, the 5,000 metric tons of imported steel bars were released. But I still have in my possession a letter from a government expert on steel that says that the three samples drawn do not represent the whole universe of the 5,000 metric tons of imported steel bars.

Fortunatel­y, the DTI eventually amended its sampling requiremen­ts for imported steel bars after I made it an issue, which is the correct thing to do to ensure the safety of our buildings and, ultimately, our people.

In our radio/tv program “Dito sa Bayan ni Juan” with former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, we had for our guest the official who issued the letter relative to the 5,000-metric-ton importatio­n of steel bars. We discussed the circumstan­ces behind the testing procedure. And he explained that their responsibi­lity was only to test the steel bars and to follow the government-prescribed testing rules as they have no authority to change it.

But having said in his letter that the testing results of the three samples drawn from the steel bar importatio­n would not be representa­tive of the entire universe of 5,000 metric tons of imported steel bars, we wonder why he did not suggest for the government to address the issue immediatel­y and appropriat­ely. He knows this because what he said in his letter was practicall­y an admission of the procedural problem.

Why was DTI’S testing rules on steel bars amended only after I questioned them? And why do government officials have to wait for things to become a public concern before they act to correct them? Perhaps, those concerned government officials can enlighten us on these issues.

This mindset, however, saddens me, knowing that government agencies are supposed to closely coordinate with each other. Government officials should not have a compartmen­tal mind as even the government’s three independen­t department­s—the Executive, Legislativ­e and Judiciary—need to coordinate with each other. There’s always a time for independen­t department­s to work cohesively on issues for the good of the nation and its people. And there’s always a time for those in government, to be morally and officially responsibl­e officials.

As parents, my wife and I trained our children to be sensitive and to act responsibl­y in situations that can potentiall­y cause damage or injury. If they see a glass of water precarious­ly placed on the table, for instance, they need not be told to secure it to prevent it from falling. This is simple common sense, and a simple way to show care and concern.

Government officials must have a sense of responsibi­lity, accountabi­lity and concern for the public good. Good public servants must respond immediatel­y to concerns that have the potential to cause damage or injury to the people and the nation.

Maybe there is a need to undertake a moral reformatio­n and/or reorientat­ion program for government officials. With the program, perhaps, government officials, especially those cloaked with regulatory powers, would have the moral conscience and responsibi­lity to act immediatel­y on urgent issues and concerns, before they become social or economic problems. After all, this is what President Duterte wants in his administra­tion—officials who are accountabl­e, morally concerned, and good team players who can effectivel­y coordinate with other agencies for the good of the nation and the Filipino people.

In my next column, I will expound on the issue of the controvers­ial importatio­n of used, obsolete and environmen­tally hazardous induction furnace from China. We recently discussed this topic in our radio/ TV program.

Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza is the chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries and Fight Illicit Trade; a broad-based, multisecto­ral movement intended to protect consumers, safeguard government revenues and shield legitimate industries from the ill effects of smuggling.

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