THE TARIFF commission will assess the impact of safeguard duties imposed on steel angle bars and newsprint on the domestic industry, after the expiration of these safeguard measures.

Philippine imposition of safeguard duties on steel angle bars was extended to end in 2019, after first being implemented in 2009 to 2015. Imported newsprint also had safeguard import duties from 2015 to 2018.

The commission will be conducting online public hearings in February 2021.

“The purpose of the public hearing is to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions taken by the domestic industry in facilitating positive adjustment to import competition,” the commission said in separate public notices signed last month.

All interested parties may present evidence or testimony at the meetings.

The Trade department in 2015 imposed a general safeguard measure against imports of newsprint from various countries after the department’s investigation found that increased imports likely caused serious injury to the domestic newsprint industry, in response to an application from the Trust International Paper Corp.

The Safeguard Measures Act, or Republic Act No. 8800, allows domestic producers to ask the government to conduct an investigation into their import competitors if they claim to have been injured by excessive imports.

In a 2017 assessment, the tariff commission found that the domestic newsprint industry complied substantially with commitments in its adjustment plan, noting that the measures such as equipment upgrades significantly lowered industry deficits.

“However, the full potential of the cost savings from the efficiency measures undertaken have not been fully realized by the domestic industry due to cost factors that are beyond its control such as fluctuations in such major cost components as bunker fuel and power,” the report said.

The report said that the industry must make further adjustments to the external pressures, adding that the safeguard offered it enough time to make improvements.

The steel angle bar industry had successfully petitioned for an extension of safeguard measures up to 2019 after it reported that imports seriously injured local industry and submitted evidence on its adjustment to competition.

The tariff commission’s 2017 assessment found that the domestic steel angle bar industry complied substantially with adjustment commitments.

“The impact of the adjustment measures undertaken by the domestic industry can be seen in its high market shares, the significant reduction in its production costs, and the improvements in its production and sales volumes, utilization rates, and profitability.”

Steel industry groups have recently been calling the attention of the Trade department to unmarked and substandard steel bars in Luzon markets, with Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) President Ronald Magsajo alleging that some may have been smuggled into the country.

The tariff commission will also be conducting a public hearing on Dec. 18 on the safeguard measures on the Philippine cement industry, assessing its compliance with adjustment plans. — Jenina P. Ibañez