Probe sought on cement price spike

Published July 6, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

DTI urged to take action

Consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) has expressed concern over the recent sharp spikes in cement prices and urged the Department of Trade and Industry to investigate with the end of view of regulating and implementing stricter monitoring stressing this construction material is crucial in the Build Build Build program, which is expected to drive economic recovery in the country.

In a statement, LKI President Victorio Mario Dimagiba said they assessed regional prices and compared the prices of name brands versus other brands.

With safeguard duty, Dimagiba said, imported cement is expected to be higher than the local cement to serve the safeguard objective. “But since local cement shoot up to P250 per bag in May, the imported cement may follow suit,” he said.

“We are concerned because we saw a recent spike in cement prices, as they shot up to the dismay of many consumers, both household and corporate. We are wary of the rise in cement prices,” said Dimagiba.

LKI pointed out the notable spikes, cited for example, in the National Capital Region, Holcim increased its prices this May from P225 to P250. Republic cement increased their prices from P225 to P240. Rizal and Advance Eagle Cement also had similar spikes in their cement prices.

In the different regions, LKI observed there were also price increases seen all throughout, spread across the Philippines, by Holcim, Advance Eagle Cement, Northern Cement, Republic Cement, Apo Cement, Grand Premium Cement, Grand Pozzolan, Mabuhay, based on their records for their May prices. The range of increases varied from 20 to almost 50 pesos, depending on the area and the company, but the rise was very consistent.

“Perhaps it would be better for government to regulate and monitor strictly the cement prices first to limit it to a more manageable level so people and businesses can get back on their feet first, settle down, and reach a certain level of stability both financially and psychologically, so they can prepare long-term plans with whatever construction has to be done,” urged Dimagiba.

He stressed that prices of cement will also greatly affect the progress of our government’s Build, Build, Build plans, as it is a pillar and foundation of any progress and development in the nation’s infrastructure. A lower price range will definitely help in lessening the debts of the Administration and coming up with much more manageable budgets for government projects.

“The impact of cement prices really reaches far and wide so perhaps all this should be taken into consideration, especially that we are still in our own forms of community quarantine,” he said.

“We hope some action can be taken, and customers can be reassured that the prices they are paying for in cement are fair, above-board and commensurate to what they are acquiring.”

Dimagiba noted that the economy is only starting to adjust to the new normal brought about by the pandemic and the community quarantines.  In fact, he pointed out, the pandemic is here to stay until a vaccine is found.

LIKI stressed that consumers are not yet fully equipped financially, and many have already lost their jobs or businesses.

LKI noted that cement is very crucial to our economy, and to the start of new lives for our Filipino consumers.

“Higher cement prices should be monitored by the government, so as to ensure that these price levels do not go up any higher, for the benefit and welfare of the poor consumer. Cement companies may use the crisis as a reason to recover their profits, but now is not the time to jack up the prices of important products like cement. Right now, we should all be looking out for one another, especially in terms of the well-being of the normal, average everyday consumer in the Philippines,” Dimagiba explained.

Unless, the DTI and the Tariff Commission tighten the implements of the safeguard duty, consumers will always bear the high cost of the product. “There should be strict monitoring of local products versus imported products with the safeguard duty, Consumers would patronize local products as they are cheaper sans the safeguard duty. But that is now what’s happening now,” he added.