CEMENT MANUFACTURERS have noted a surge in imports from Vietnam and are warning of further harm to the industry despite the safeguard duties in place.

The Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines, (CeMAP) Inc. said Vietnam’s cement exports to the Philippines rose 17% year on year to 2.51 million tons in the first four months of 2021, making the Philippines its second-largest export destination.

“With a huge surplus and lower domestic demand, we will likely see a more aggressive effort from Vietnam exporters to flood the Philippine domestic market with imported cement,” CeMAP Executive Director Cirilo M. Pestaño II said in a statement Thursday.

The Department of Trade and Industry imposed three years of safeguard duties on imported cement after concluding that the cement industry has been harmed. The measures end next year.

Importers have reportedly been seeking refunds of the duties, saying that the imports do not threaten Philippine manufacturers.

But CeMAP said that the absence of such duties would further harm an industry trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The business group said that domestic cement manufacturers had to temporarily shut down at the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), adding that the public health crisis also drove down construction demand last year.

“Imports benefit mostly the foreign manufacturers. Their exports generate jobs in their home county, not here in the Philippines where many of our people have already lost their jobs. We must support and protect local industries — whenever necessary — if we want to recover from this pandemic,” Mr. Pestaño said.

The cement industry directly employs 42,000 people and accounts for another 125,000 jobs throughout its value chain.

CeMAP has been asking consumers and the construction sector to buy locally-produced cement. — Jenina P. Ibañez