A LEGISLATOR said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) needs to reimpose safeguard measures against paper imports, citing the prospect of job losses in the industry.

“Our paper producers are greatly affected by paper imports… possibly in violation of anti-dumping rules,” Deputy Majority Leader Jose J. Teves, Jr. said in a DTI budget hearing at the House of Representatives.

The price of imported corrugated medium paper is $390 per ton, significantly lower than the $450 to $480 price in countries of origin like Vietnam and China, Mr. Teves said.

“Isn’t this a clear violation of anti-dumping rules?” he said.

Dumping — the practice of selling goods overseas for less than the price in the source country, to the detriment of the importing country’s own producers.

The Safeguard Measures Act (Republic Act 8800) allows the government to impose temporary duties on goods imported in such volumes as to harm domestic industries.

The safeguard measures investigation is typically initiated by a complaint for domestic producers, whose claims are validated prior to the imposition of special duties.

Mr. Teves said that potential investors will be deterred by rampant dumping.

“We are trying to attract investors in the Philippines, but we also have local investors who invested P55 billion (in the paper industry). They are being neglected,” Mr. Teves said.

“In fact, it is almost two years since there was an unscheduled shutdown of operations because of the rising imports paper,” he added.

Citing data from the paper manufacturing association, Mr. Teves said imports in the first half rose 35% in the recycled container board segment, 5% in the writing and printing paper segment, and 30% in the tissue and sanitary paper segment.

He added that allied industries like trucking and recycling could also be affected.

“I hope that the paper industry will be given the attention it needs, and I hope that the DTI will listen to their concerns because they have invested P55 billion in the Philippines,” Mr. Teves said.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo confirmed that dumping was taking place in paper.

“In fact, we were able to impose a safeguard duty on paper for 10 years, which lapsed in 2018,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

“We will be very happy to have a dialogue with them. In fact, this is an issue that is not just limited to the paper industry, but many industrial products are subject to some form of unfair competition. That is why our Bureau of Import Services is very active now,” he said.

House Appropriations Vice Chairman and Pangasinan Rep. Christopher de Venecia said he will support additional funding for the DTI to expand its capacity to support small businesses.

“We always hear that the MSMEs (micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises) are the backbone of the economy, comprising 99% of all businesses,” Mr. De Venecia said.

“You are a Presidential priority (but with only) a P7.9-billion budget allocation, I will join my colleagues in lobbying for additional funding for all of the main programs of DTI and its attached agencies,” he added.

For 2024, the DTI and its attached agencies were given a total budget allocation of P7.91 billion of the National Expenditure Program, with the Office of the Secretary accounting for P5.32 billion and its attached agencies for P2.34 billion.

The DTI agencies include the Board of Investments, with a budget of P659 million; the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines (P188 million), the Cooperative Development Authority (P1.26 billion), the Design Center of the Philippines (P134 million) and the Philippine Trade Training Center (P97 million).

Automatic appropriations for the DTI account for P249 million. — Justine Irish D. Tabile