By Jenina P. Ibañez

THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) is studying the possibility of putting plywood back on the list of products under mandatory certification in a bid to curb importation of substandard products.

In a statement on Wednesday, DTI said that it had consulted plywood industry stakeholders for their observations and recommendations about the influx of the product into the country since it was removed from the list in 2015.

The department is now considering drafting a Department Administrative Order (DAO) to put the product back on the list of those that need to be certified as meeting standards.

Imported plywood, which are not tested for quality, grew nearly fourfold from 2015 to 2019, DTI noted in its statement. According to DTI’s Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS), imported plywood increased to 32,768 metric tons (MT) worth around $12.75 million as of July from 8,624 MT worth around $4.5 million in the same seven months in 2015.

“In a three-year period since plywood was removed from the list in 2015, imports have rapidly increased and these are not tested for standard compliance,” the department’s statement quoted Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez as saying in his speech at the 2nd Philippine Consumer Congress on Oct. 25.

“We are adding more products in the mandatory compliance since many of them were released from the list. Since then, we saw import surges of these products. And since they are not subjected to mandatory testing, substandard products can come in.”

The Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA), which represents both local companies and importers, supported DTI’s move. “[DTI] is putting plywood back into the mandatory certification [list] because it’s their mandate for construction materials. Substandard products will be a risk to safety,” PWPA Executive Director Maila R. Vasquez said in mix of Filipino and English during a phone interview. “Standards would assure consumers that all products coming in the domestic market are the right quality.”

“We’re not saying that [imports] do not make the standard, but there are many that come in that don’t have the best standard,” Ms. Vasquez added.

DTI said in the statement that the objective is to ensure consumer safety by eliminating the sale of substandard plywood products. “Substandard plywood is ‘unfair to all of us’ and threatens both public safety and the local manufacturing industry,” Mr. Lopez said.

He added that local plywood companies are forced to either sell at a loss or stop operations because substandard plywood can be sold at low prices. “This, in turn, may shrink the country’s manufacturing base and widen the trade deficit.”

During their consultation with DTI, the PWPA asked for more efficient testing for certification so as not to delay entry of plywood. “The concern is, of course, how do we quickly bring out both the local and imported products under testing,” Ms. Vasquez said. “PWPA, of course, we follow the requirements of the government. Our concern is it that it should not affect the business. In business, time is gold; every minute counts… [DTI] should ensure that there will be no delays.”

The DTI, according to Ms. Vasquez, is considering speeding up the process of accrediting plywood testing centers, since there are only two with such permit currently.

Under the possible DAO, plywood products must comply with the Technical Regulation for Mandatory PS Licensing Scheme under the International Standard for Plywood, PNS ISO 12465:2017.

The BPS will then test plywood samples before issuing PS Quality or Safety Certification marks to local manufacturers and Import Commodity Clearances to importers.

DTI has issued new technical regulations for cement, steel bars, and glass. The department is working on drafting a DAO for ceramic tiles and is holding consultations for regulations on black iron and galvanized iron, steel pipes and steel sheets.