• DTI eyes safeguard measures on cement imports
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is looking at imposing measures to protect the local cement industry as it found rising imports to be hurting domestic players.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the agency, which started an investigation to determine if there is a need to impose safeguard measure on cement imports in September, has found that cement imports have risen and threatens the domestic industry.
“We have noticed an import surge. There is an import surge really. That has been established,” he said, adding the higher imports hurt the local industry in terms of sales.
Cement imports sales in particular, rose by 70 percent to 6,059 metric tons (MT) in 2014 from 3,558 MT in 2013, went up by 4,400 percent to reach 272,088 MT in 2015, increased 550 percent to 1.77 million MT in 2016 and grew 72 percent to hit 3.04 million MT in 2017.
Meanwhile, sales of domestic players went up by 11.31 percent to 18.45 million MT in 2014, increased by 11.82 percent to 20.64 million MT in 2015, grew slightly by 0.70 percent to 20.78 million MT in 2016, and declined by 1.50 percent to 20.47 million MT in 2017.
Should the DTI impose safeguard duty on cement imports, he said the DTI would still want to ensure price stability.
“We will also have a requirement that price stability will be ensured so that prices would not go up. These are things we are fine-tuning. That is why we cannot yet announce. But these are what we are looking into. Assuming there is import duty, there will be like a maximum price or trigger price by which that duty would be suspended,” he said.
He said even if a safeguard duty is placed on cement imports, the DTI expects enough cement supply to meet demand, particularly for infrastructure projects under the Build Build Build program.
Various groups have earlier expressed opposition to imposition of safeguard duty on cement imports.
Philippine Cement Importers Association Inc. president Napoleon Co said an additional safeguard duty on cement imports is not necessary and would mean an increase in prices and aggravate the supply shortage.
Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) said the imposition of safeguard duty on cement imports could derail infrastructure projects being implemented both by the private sector and the government with an expected shortage in supply.
Laban Konsyumer Inc. president Victorio Mario Dimagiba said the DTI should ensure completion of expansion of local cement makers before even thinking about imposing the safeguard duty on cement imports.
The Philippine Constructors Association Inc. said earlier, the imposition of safeguard measures on cement imports would harm consumers and contractors with more and more construction activities coming up.
Republic Act 8800 or the Safeguard Measures Act allows the imposition of safeguard measures or higher duties on imported goods to provide relief to local players.