THE Department of Trade and Industry said cement prices remain “stable” even after it levied a temporary safeguard duty on imported cement.
“The DTI continues to monitor prices… Based on the latest monitoring report, prices are stable, and supply is sufficient,” Luis M. Catibayan, director of the agency’s Bureau of Import Services told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of the Tariff Commission’s public hearing on the safeguard duty case on local cement.
Some Trade officials were asked to provide data on cement prices but had not replied at deadline.
Mr. Catibayan, in his statement at the hearing, reiterated that the duty does not cause a shortage, and that the measure was largely in consideration of public interest, particularly the role of domestic producers in economic activities such as the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez assured that the safeguard duty of P210 per metric ton of P8.40 per bag will not result in a shortage and will only lead to a 3.8% increase in current prices.
The DTI launched an investigation after cement imports surged from 3,558 metric tons in 2013 to more than three million metric tons in 2017.
The share of imports — from non-manufacturer or “pure” traders — increased to 15% from only 0.02% during the four-year period, when the industry’s earnings before interest and taxes had declined, most evidently in 2017 when they slumped 49%.
Meanwhile, Mr. Catibayan said the setting of a suggested retail price on cement is still under review.
The DTI ordered cement manufacturers to maintain their current retail prices with the department monitor the market for price increases.
The order took effect in February and will be implemented for 200 days to allow the Tariff Commission to complete its investigation on whether such protection is warranted.
Under Republic Act 8800 or the Safeguard Measures Act of 2000, a provisional duty is imposed under “critical circumstances where a delay would cause damage which would be difficult to repair, and pursuant to a preliminary determination that increased imports are a substantial cause of, or threaten to substantially cause, serious injury to the domestic industry.”
The Tariff Commission started yesterday its public hearings which run to May 24. — Janina C. Lim