Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate Isko Moreno Domagoso said Wednesday that given the chance, he will fully support the revival of the National Steel Corporation (NSC), as well as other steel manufacturing plants in the country, to create more jobs and business opportunities that will hasten human and economic growth.
Moreno made the assurance after reporters asked him of his plans for Iligan City, particularly the NSC, which was once touted the largest steel mill in Asia but has been shut down for more than a decade due to financial issues.
“As I have said, we need to create more jobs, jobs, jobs. At least 4.2 million Filipinos lost their jobs for the past two years, and creating an industry like steel manufacturing or producing steel is a good venture for our country,” Moreno said in an interview before Team Isko embarked on a motorcade in the Northern Mindanao city of Iligan.
“For example, yung black sand, tapos meron tayong nickel, tapos puwede naman tayong kumuha ng ore sa Indonesia, we bring it here, we produce stainless steel. And nowadays, stainless steel in the world, ang high ng demand,” Moreno told reporters in Iligan City.
The Iligan Steel Mill was established in 1952 as a government-initiated project implemented by the National Shipyards and Steel Corporation (NASSCO). The company was sold in 1963 to Iligan Integrated Steel Mills, Inc. of the Jacinto family.
Upon the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, the Marcos government confiscated the steel facilities. In 1974, the assets were acquired by the newly incorporated National Steel Corporation, the name by which it is known today.
NSC was later acquired by Wing Tiek of the Malaysian Westmont Group in 1995 (during the Ramos administration), but was severely affected by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. In 2000, the Estrada government ordered for NSC’s liquidation. During the Macapagal-Arroyo administration in 2004, the facility was acquired by Ispat Industries Ltd. of India, but was then again forced to close in 2009 due to financial and labor issues.
The city government of Iligan has attempted to auction off the 400-hectare steel mill in 2016 but there were no interested bidders. The properties associated with the steel mill was then forfeited in favor of the Iligan city government
But more than just reviving the NSC and supporting existing steel manufacturers, Moreno said he will push for the domestic processing of ores mined in the Philippines, particularly black sand and nickel ore, to boost the country’s iron and steel industry that is highly-dependent on imports.
Ironically, the Philippines imports products from countries where it exports its mineral ores.
China, in particular, has been mining black sand from various parts of the country, process the raw form of the substance in their country, then import the finish products back to Manila.
Robust demand from China’s stainless steel producers also makes it the largest buyer of Philippine nickel ore. China is also the country’s top source of imported steel.
“So, instead na yung nickel natin, o yung iba pang minerals na ginagamit para makapag-produce nito (steel) ay pinadadala natin sa ibang bansa, bakit hindi na lamang natin hikayatin itong mga nag-mimina, na dito na. Pagka-mina, mag-create pa tayo ng isang industriya which is manufacturing, which is producing finished products,” the 47-year-old presidential candidate said.
The Philippine iron and steel industry is a critical component in achieving Moreno’s accelerated infrastructure program to attain inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.
The 47-year-old presidential bet has vowed that if elected, he will pursue a “Life and Livelihood” economic policy that aims to address poverty, hunger, unemployment, inequality and social injustice through an inclusive and equitable infrastructure development program as spelled out under his 10-point Bilis Kilos Economic Agenda.
To achieve this, he will continue the Build, Build, Build program of President Rodrigo Duterte, with focus on building facilities that will provide the minimum basic needs of the people –housing, education and healthcare – to create more jobs and livelihood opportunities.
Besides building more housing, world-class hospitals, modern public schools, and inter-island linkages, Moreno’s accelerated infrastructure program also prioritizes building more power plants, both conventional and renewable, to ensure a stable and affordable supply of electricity to grow the economy and attract foreign investments, including mineral processing, thus provide more jobs.
“And I think that can be done. And that can be afforded by our investors because marami tayong skilled Filipinos and madali tayong matuto, madali taying mag-adjust. So, I think kaya natin yon maibalik pagdating ng araw, may awa ang Diyos,” said Moreno. #