The Philippine Statistics Authority said 40 percent of Filipino households depend on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for their daily cooking needs. These families are the potential victims of unsafe LPG tanks being sold by unscrupulous LPG suppliers. For example, if they happen to buy imported LPG tanks that are made of low quality steel, these Filipino households are unnecessarily exposed to the hazard of an LPG cylinder that can potentially explode.
From the Philippine News Agency, January 31, 2023: “At least 18 people were injured after a liquefied petroleum gas tank exploded in a four-story commercial building in Malate, Manila on Monday. The Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office reported that the incident occurred inside a laundry shop along Fidel Reyes Street in Barangay 708 where an LPG tank exploded due to gas leak. The blast triggered a fire that started around 7:19 p.m. and was extinguished at 7:34 p.m. as some 10 fire trucks responded. The Manila DRRMO said the victims were brought to Adventist Medical Hospital, Philippine General Hospital, Ospital ng Maynila and De La Salle University hospital.”
I have written in my past columns that in my capacity as Chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries, I have been advocating for the longest time the promotion of local industries to help them grow and be able to compete locally and in the global market. These local businesses need government support to enable them to generate more jobs and help strengthen the economy. That’s why it pains me to hear that foreign liquefied petroleum gas cylinder manufacturing companies in China and elsewhere are allegedly getting preferential treatment from the government.
According to my sources, some foreign companies were able to get PS license to produce LPG cylinders in a span of three months, which happened at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. My question is, are their LPG cylinders meticulously checked for quality standard?
My sources said there are now only two local LPG cylinder manufacturers, and the sad part is that they are reportedly having a hard time renewing their licenses. I was informed that they are being subjected to stringent scrutiny by the concerned government agency, and that it allegedly takes months before they can secure a license to produce.
I don’t want to make any conclusion, but I would be remiss in my duty as FPI Chairman if I allow this issue to pass without discussing it with the DTI Secretary, who, I know, also wants to protect the interest of local businesses to help them prosper. Rest assured that I will not waver supporting the DTI in its mission to help local industries and to facilitate trade and investments.
What is alarming, however, is the information I got that some companies are importing substandard LPG cylinders at a very cheap cost. Based on our research, high-pressure steel is needed to manufacture an LPG cylinder. If imported LPG cylinders come at very cheap prices, would that not make our authorities suspect that these LPG tanks are made of low quality steel? Steel is a global commodity with a universal price. So, if the price difference between an imported LPG cylinder and locally manufactured LPG cylinder is so big, this should raise a lot of questions and suspicions.
My sources said there is reason to believe that imported LPG cylinders are made of subpar steel. But how come they are not rigidly examined, like what authorities do to local LPG manufacturers that are subject to stringent testing?
There have been hundreds of LPG fire-related incidents in the country. It’s about time we seriously think about the well being of the millions of Filipino households depending on LPG for their daily cooking needs. My question is: How many substandard and therefore unsafe LPG tanks are in circulation nationwide?
In the last five years, at least 7.2 million LPG cylinders have been imported. Our local manufacturers, who are using quality high-pressure steel and are being strictly monitored by the DTI-BPS can manufacture almost four million LPG tanks annually. But cheap imported LPG cylinders are threatening their businesses. If the importation volume keeps on increasing, we may soon see the demise of our local LPG cylinder manufacturers who create hundreds of jobs for our citizens. At the same time, millions of households will continually be exposed to the hazards brought about by imported but substandard LPG tanks.
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.