MANUFACTURERS are asking the government to review trade laws to protect local industries from the influx of “cheaper and substandard” imported goods into the Philippines.

The Federation of Philippine Industries, Inc. (FPI), in letters to President Rodrigo R. Duterte and the Trade department, asked for a review of safeguard measures, anti-dumping laws, and countervailing laws amid what it described as “desperate times.”

“Local industries are also battling a different kind of pandemic, and this is COVID-19 in the form of dumping of goods, so we need to review our policies and stop deciding on trade issues like we are still in the old normal. The least we prepare, the worst it will hit us. Philippine businesses are also in danger of ending up in incinerators,” FPI President Jesus L. Arranza said in a statement on Monday.

Anti-dumping tariffs are placed on goods that are considered as priced below fair market value, and countervailing duties are placed on subsidized goods.

FPI noted businesses from other countries, subsidized by their own governments, may seek out Philippine markets to offset lost sales in their own markets due to the pandemic.

The business group said other countries have been boosting exports and protecting their own local manufacturers, citing the growth of exports from China and the United States.

“In July, China’s merchandise shipments went up 7.2%. The US, on the other hand, saw its total exports climb 9.4%,” FPI said.

Mr. Arranza said it will re-launch its campaign for consumers to buy local goods, noting that the Trade department’s “Buy Local, Go Local” campaign can help producers and manufacturers whose businesses suffered during the pandemic.

“There are less activities, less demands and we therefore fear that this will worsen the influx of imported goods, including substandard products, in the country because other nations will want to get a share of that dwindling global market,” he said.

The Trade department was unable to give a comment on the FPI’s letter as of press time.

Meanwhile, the Board of Investments (BoI) is urging Philippine public and private organizations to buy locally made personal protective equipment (PPE) as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues.

According to its data, Philippine manufacturers can now produce 60 million face masks a month, compared to six million in January. They expect this to increase to 66.4 million before the end of 2020.

Philippine manufacturers also produce 3.2 million pieces of medical-grade coveralls per month, along with 6,050 ventilators and 60,000 infrared thermometers. Some electronic manufacturers repurposed their operations to produce face masks and thermometers.

“Locally produced PPE has not only helped out in the fight against COVID-19, but helps Philippine manufacturers stay afloat amid the economic impact of the pandemic, protecting thousands of jobs for ordinary Filipinos,” BoI said in a press release on Monday.

Firms under the Confederation of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP) have asked the government to increase demand for locally made products, instead of favoring their imported counterparts. CPMP had also asked the government for tax breaks, asking them to instead apply the taxes on importers. — Jenina P. Ibañez