By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has yet to come up with a suggested retail price (SRP) on cement to the dismay of consumer group Laban Konsymer, Inc. which stressed that retail prices of this critical construction material has already gone up to P240 per bag.
The DTI was supposed to come up with an SRP on cement following its decision to impose in February a provisional P8.40 per 40-kilogram bag safeguard duty on imported cement. The SRP on cement should ensure stable prices of cement while the Tariff Commission conducts a final determination whether or not the surge in imported cement has caused serious injury to the domestic cement manufacturers and merit the permanent imposition of the safeguard duty.
“The SRP on cement is part of the DTI order when it slapped imported cement with the provisional safeguard duty,” Dimagiba pointed out. When the DTI issued order in February this year, the prevailing average price of cement was at P220 per bag.
DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, however, said that prices of cement vary because of distribution cost. Those closer to ports and plants are lower.
But as this developed, the Tariff Commission has also postponed the public hearing scheduled on May 6-10 on the imposition of safeguard measure against imported cement saying it needs more time to conduct plant visits and data verification to aid in its investigation.
In light of the possible delay in the public hearing, LKI President Victorio Mario Dimagiba has urged the commission to keep with the prescribed period of May 21, 2019 by which they are supposed to come up with a decision.
“The Tariff Commission should complete the investigation within the prescribed period by law, notwithstanding the postponement of the hearing. Otherwise the TC should dismiss the investigation motu propio,” Dimagiba said.
In imposing the provisional safeguard duty on imported cement, DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said its preliminary probe showed there is enough domestic capacity of 35 million metric tons to meet the estimated local demand of 25 million MT.
DTI also said that imported cement increased from only 3,558 metric tons in 2013 to more than 3 million MT in 2017. The share of imports (from non-manufacturer or “pure” traders) increased from only 0.02 percent to 15 percent during the same period. Equally important, DTI said the industry experienced a sharp decline in income (earnings before interest and taxes) of 49 percent in 2017.