THE Tariff Commission has recommended against imposing safeguard measures on ceramic floor and wall tile imports after the conclusion of its investigation.

In a report issued Wednesday, the commission said that it found no evidence of increased ceramic tile imports, concluding that any serious injury to domestic production is “moot and academic.”

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in May imposed a provisional safeguard duty of P3 per kilogram on ceramic tile imports in an effort to protect domestic industry.

The tariff commission found that import volumes of glazed ceramic tiles, which the Philippine ceramic tile industry produces, declined at an average of 7% from 2015 to 2019 following a 200% import surge in 2014. Glazed ceramic tiles account for 87% of total ceramic tile imports.

Total ceramic tile imports grew by around 200% in 2014, then declined by an average of 4% in the following years.

Relative to domestic production, imports grew by 36% compared to the 2% growth in local tile production from 2013 to 2018. The share of ceramic tile imports rose by 200% in 2014, followed by an average decrease of 6% from 2015 to 2018.

The report said that since local production of ceramic tiles was relatively constant, “the movement in the share of imports to domestic production mirrored the trend in imports (in absolute terms).”

The commission said that the domestic ceramic tile industry will benefit from the recommendation against safeguard measures, as it will have continued exposure to price and quality competition from imports.

The inability of the domestic industry to be competitive after safeguard measures were applied in 2002 to 2011, the commission said, “implied that other causes of injury, other than increased imports, may be plaguing the domestic industry and should be properly addressed.”

The commission added that the non-imposition of safeguard measures will spare consumers from ceramic tile price increases. They found “no clear relationship” between employment in the domestic industry and imports.

The Philippine ceramic tile industry consists of two companies: Mariwasa Siam Ceramics, Inc. and Formosa Ceramic Tiles Manufacturing Corp. Another firm, Eurotiles Industrial Corp., became a pure importer in 2017. First Lepanto Ceramics, Inc. ceased operations in 2013.

The tariff commission’s investigation began on May 30 2019 and concluded on Dec. 13. — Jenina P. Ibañez