By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Local cement manufacturers has expressed confidence the Tariff Commission will grant their petition for the imposition of a higher and definitive safeguard measure saying the survival of the domestic industry is a matter of national interest.
In a statement, Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (CeMAP) Executive Director Cirilo M. Pestaño II noted that based on the findings of the technical staff of the Commission, imports have increased their share of the domestic market from 1.7 million metric tons (MT) in 2016, or nearly 7 percent of domestic cement production of 23.4 million MT from minimal levels in the previous years. It rose to 12 percent in 2017 and climbed further to 17 percent at the end of the period.
“We are confident the Tariff Commission will come out with a ruling consistent with the national interest after the finding of its technical staff that imports have increased their share of the domestic market at the expense of the Philippine cement manufacturing industry,” Pestano said.
Likewise, he pointed out that 2019 cement imports surged 64 percent to 1.74 million MT in the January to March period from the 1.06 million tons in the same period last year despite the imposition of the safeguard duty effective February 21 this year.
In its amended position paper submitted to the Commission, CeMAP said imports may be good for consumers in the short-term but they will be bad to every Filipino in the mid- to long term if the Philippine Industry’s viability is compromised, its contributions to the economy lost and its capacity to meet future demand impaired.
Likewise, CeMAP said the fact that this is the first motu proprio case filed by the government “underlines the recognition of the cement industry’s importance in nation building” and part of the government’s initiative to ensure that the nation maintains its self-sufficiency in its cement needs.
“It recognizes the importance of this self-sufficiency as a critical component for the success of the administration’s program of maintaining strong economic development,” CeMAP added in its amended position paper.
CeMAP also warned that if the safeguard measures are not put in place, “demand in the mid- to long-term will definitely outstrip supply. If this trend continues, the country will go the way of Import dependence supporting foreign economies to progress while neglecting our own.”
CeMAP reiterated that the issue transcends the interest of the domestic cement industry and involves the more critical matter of national interest.
According to CeMAP, the sector contributes an estimated P155 billion or 1 percent of the total GDP of the country, as well as tax revenues of around P24 billion annually.
Last February 9, the Department of Trade and Industry imposed a safeguard measure of P8.40 per 40-kilogram bag of imported cement saying the surge in imported cheaper cement has been hurting local cement manufacturers.