AS a consumer protection measure, the government, through the Department of Trade and Industry, included flat glass in its list of products under mandatory standard. In fact, the DTI ordered that “all imported flat glass must pass the quality standards for ICC (Import Clearance Certification) and all manufacturing plants must be PS-certified (Philippine National Standards) to ensure safety on the use of this major construction material.”
And since failure to follow the quality standards for flat glass products could result in legal penalties and liability as they are generally adopted out of concern for the safety of Filipino consumers, some glass importers whose business are obviously affected, fought and filed their opposition to the new DTI standard policy on flat glass at two separate courts in the country. This prompted the courts to issue an injunction to stop DTI from enforcing the new standard policy on flat glass.
The new standard policy on flat glass was issued to enhance consumer protection. Unfortunately, its implementation was stopped because of the court injunction. The Office of the Solicitor General, as DTI’s legal counsel, filed a petition to lift the injunction by the two courts. But after over three years, the courts have yet to issue a resolution on the OSG petition asking them to lift the injunction.
Meanwhile, flat glass importers could be stacking up on their glass importations while the injunction remains in effect. This development practically makes the country’s flat glass market an unregulated sector, despite DTI’s issuance of mandatory standards.
Flat glass is being used in panel windows and even the walls of high-rise buildings. Given the injunction that has stopped for three years the implementation of the new standard policy on flat glass, will this not unduly risk the lives and limbs of consumers using unregulated flat glass?
The Philippines should learn from the devastating earthquake in Turkey that killed thousands of people. We always talk about the “big one.” What if a strong earthquake comes and injuries or deaths happen because of the unregulated flat glass market?
While I was discussing with a lawyer friend, Atty. Danton Lucinario, about the risks to consumers of the courts’ long delay in lifting the injunction on flat glass products, Lucinario explained that if the delay will endanger the safety and general security of the people, the government has the mandate to use its police power to secure the safety and well-being of its people.
Under the Constitution, police power is primarily lodged with the Legislative department of government. However, by virtue of a valid delegation, it may also be exercised by the President of the Philippines, administrative boards and local governments under the general welfare clause, which says: “Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.”
The general welfare, also sometimes referred to as the “public welfare” or the “public good,” is the concern of the government for the health, peace, and safety of its citizens. The continued use in the country of unregulated flat glass is one serious incident waiting to happen.
It’s about time that the state puts its foot down. Only when government authorities and concerned agencies put policies into effect and categorically declare that all flat glass products in the market must pass the government’s quality standards can we possibly stop an undesirable event from happening when the “big one” comes. It is government’s duty to protect Filipino consumers from the risks that come with unknowingly buying and using substandard products.
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.