Toxic Chinese products

A CBS 60 Minutes TV report has documented the danger posed by Chinese lumber products. The segment aired by CNN Philippines last week exposed formaldehyde-laced lumber used as flooring in many American homes. CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper’s investigative report included a US health standard finding that the Chinese-made flooring exceeded the formaldehyde level allowed  by law. Formaldehyde, more known for embalming corpses, is also used  as lumber preservative that gives the laminated flooring material its sheen.

Because of the Anderson Cooper report, the stock of Lumber Liquidators, the biggest US distributor of the Chinese-made flooring material, went bust even after it pulled out the product from the market. Home Depot and Lowe’s , two major US home builder outlets, took them off the shelves after learning of its health hazards. The health risks range from asthma to lung cancer when people are exposed to the carcinogenic substance in the flooring.

Most of these toxic floorings are found in many houses in California and about 100,000 US-wide. Shipped directly from China across the Pacific, the flooring material is a bestseller because of its cheap price. But like most Chinese products, it carries a health risk that may prove more costly in the long run. Many American home owners are now prying off the Chinese-made board flooring and replacing them with US-made material.

This report is relevant to the local construction industry and condominium dwellers. That shiny new flooring in your home may be hazardous to your health. There are reports that some Chinese steel used in the construction of high-rise buildings are substandard and may not be able to withstand a major earthquake like the Big One expected in Metro Manila.

There have been other instances when Chinese products like milk contaminated with melamine, toys and school supplies like pencils and crayolas were found toxic, including rice mixed with plastic.

The deadly explosion in the Chinese port city of Tianjin which killed 114 people was caused by stored chemicals, possibly cyanide. Chinese authorities imposed a news blackout initially but could not keep a lid on the disaster when the explosion was caught on camera by residents. The death toll, which included responding firemen overcome by the deadly fumes, is expected to rise as more people are reported missing.

The question is: Why is China storing such a huge stockpile of cyanide?

Protecting PAL against unfair competition

It’s bad enough that foreign airlines are pirating our pilots by offering them higher pay. But it’s the pilots’ right to seek a better life for their families. Foreign airlines can afford to pay higher wages because they are subsidized by their governments plus pirating pilots saves them millions of dollars and time in the training of new ones.

With so many regional airlines coming up, it has become a pilot’s market. I have a nephew who had moved airlines three times in the past 15 years, getting a higher pay every time he transferred. If you have a son who’s looking at a college course and a bright future profession, being a commercial pilot is the way to go.

But going back to unfair competition, the August 27-28 bilateral air talks between the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates bear watching.

National flag carrier Philippine Airlines is asking the Civil Aeronautics Board not to give undue advantage to the Middle East carriers who are applying for additional frequency to fly to Manila  PAL claims the additional flights for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are unnecessary and more than the market can bear. Giving the Gulf carriers additional flights could force PAL and other local airlines to stop flying to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha because of the uneven playing field if the CAB accedes to the Emirates request.

Of more concern to the national interest is that the additional flights being sought by the Gulf carriers would be inimical to PAL which has only recently returned to the Middle East under its entitlement in an existing bilateral air agreement.The additional flights would cut into PAL’s market of mostly overseas Filipino workers. Because the Middle East carriers are heavily subsidized by their governments, they can offer lower fares.

PAL president and Chief Operating Officer Jaime Bautista cited a US Federal investigation of the Gulf carriers for unfair competition and practices after a protest lodged jointly by  Delta, United and American Airlines. 

“We hope our government will promote fair competition and support our airlines who have invested much in re-establishing air links to the Middle East and Europe,” said Bautista.

We also hope the CAB panel headed by its chairman, Transportation Secretary Jun  “Traffic is not fatal” Abaya, keeps the national interest in mind when deliberating the additional flights for the Middle East carriers. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Air had enough time to make huge profits during all the years PAL was not availing itself of its entitlement to fly to the Middle East.

DOTC Secretary Abaya can redeem himself if he realizes that Gulf carriers’ request could be fatal to the local airline industry which has invested so much to be competitive by buying new planes to refurbish its fleet without government subsidy.

The other members of the CAB are Tourism Secretary Mon “It’s more fun in the Philippines” Jimenez, vice chairman; Carmelo Arcilla, executive director;

Porvenir Porciuncula, deputy executive director; and William Hotchkiss, member.

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