Cement importers dispute manufacturers claims

Cement importers disputed claims by local cement manufacturers that importation of this construction material dramatically shoot up saying domestic manufacturers are using false data to justify their petition before the Department of Trade and Industry to delay the reduction of the safeguard duty on imported cement to P9 per bag and instead raise the rate further to P12 per bag from the current P10 per 40-kilogram bag.

Showing data from the Bureau of Customs (BOC), importers said cement importation in the first half of 2020 was only 2,604,696,293 metric tons, substantially lower than the 4,033,577,187 MT importation in the same period of 2019.

“There is absolutely no truth as to the unsubstantiated allegation that cement import supposedly increased by 14 percent in the first half of 2020,” said Ferdinand Co, managing director of CW Home Depot, and one of major cement importers in the country.

 Co further supported this downward trend in cement importation from data he got from the Bureau of Import Services of the DTI, which showed that cement imports substantially suffered a 31 percent reduction in the first half of the year ver.

Quoting BIS-DTI data, Co showed that total importation of Portland Cement (AHTN Code 2523.29.90) and Hydraulic Cement (AHTN Code 2523.90.00) in the first half of 2019 reached 3,961,294 metric tons. This is a lot higher than the total 2,745,627 MT importation in the same period this year, he said.

 “The data of the BIS-DTI on Portland Cement and Hydraulic Cement would show that there is a general decrease in the total quantity of imports during the first half of 2020 compared to the imports in 2019,” Co said.

  “We do not know where CeMAP (Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines) got their data,” said Co.

  On the part of PHINMA and Philcement, which have been accused by CeMAP earlier about substandard and mislabeling issues but which was readily denied by the PHINMA group, only said they are ready to go through the process in deciding the new CeMAP petition.  PHINMA and Philcement said they will be present at the November 16 hearing at the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).

“This is in the able hands of the DTI and Undersecretary Ruth Castelo has already indicated that they are looking into this. In the end, what is paramount is a stable supply of quality cement now, more than ever, when our country needs aggressive, yet climate change resilient, infrastructure development to stave off the disastrous impact of the pandemic on the economy,” said PHINMA spokesperson Peter Angelo Perfecto.

The case filed by cement importers before the by Court of Tax Appeals, which is set for hearing on November 16, challenges the DTI, Tariff Commission and the BOC’s decision to implement this import control measure. Complainants include Cohaco Merchandising and Development Corp., Fortem Cement Corp., NGC Land Corp., Pabaza Import and Export Inc. and Philcement Corp. have sought to nullify the safeguard duty imposed and being collected from all imports of cement.

In September, the DTI slapped a definitive safeguard duty of P10 per 40 kilogram bag on cement, or P250 per metric ton; which is in between provisional duty of P210 per MT earlier imposed and the Tariff Commission’s recommendation of P297 per MT.

The safeguard duty will go down to P225 per MT, or P9 per bag, on the second year and to P200 per MT, or P8 per bag, on the third year.

Local cement manufacturers have DTI to postpone the reduction of the P10 per bag definitive cement safeguard duty and instead raise it to P12 per bag.

As the tariff cut of P1 per bag or safeguard tariff of P9 was supposed to take effect last week, Nov. 22, 2020, CeMAP filed its appeal before the DTI to delay the reduction and instead raise the tariff by P2 to effect a higher import duty of P12 citing increases in imports and impact of the pandemic on local producers. 

Meantime, consumers said they only want lower and stable prices of cement.

Laban Konsyumer Inc. President Victorio Mario Dimagiba said that DTI Price Monitoring showed declining prices of cement. Data showed that cement prices average P220 per 40 kg bag across the country, although still lower than the P240 to P250 per bag last year.

A check among hardwares also indicated softening of cement prices. The Rizal brand is now retailing at P208 to P210, Republic Cement at P205, Eagle at P205 and Big Boss at P195 from a range of P270-P250-P220 in May this year.