DTI stops printing of ‘Product of PH’ cement labels

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has ordered all manufacturers and operators of bagging facilities to immediately cease all printing operations of previously approved cement bag designs indicating the words "Product of the Philippines" but are used to pack imported cement products as it tightened controls to ensure the quality of cement in the country.

This is part of Memorandum Circular No. 20-56, which took effect today (Oct. 30,2020), as supplemental guidelines to the Implementation of Department Administrative Order 17-06, series of 2017 issued by DTI’s Bureau of Product Standards (BPS).

MC 20-56 was issued in light of complaints by local cement manufacturers of alleged “mislabeling” of imported cement to “Made in the Philippines”.

The MC also ordered an inventory of all printed cement bags shall be conducted by the BPS at the bagging facilities for recording purposes and immediate corrective action to reflect the country of manufacture.

DTI will also conduct market monitoring and enforcement to ensure that all cement products covered by OAO 17-06, Series of 2017 distributed in the local market bear the new required markings shall commence 60 days after effectivity of this Circular. During the 60-day transition period, manufacturers and/or operators of bagging facilities shall have completed recall procedures or corrective actions to comply.

Upon commencement of monitoring and enforcement, all manufacturers, operators of bagging facilities and retailers/distributors of non-compliant products shall be subject to penalties.

For the first offense, a Notice of Violation to both manufacturers and retailers/distributors shall be issued but retailers/distributors shall only be required to pull-out the items from the selling area. The non-compliant products may be utilized for own/personal use but shall not be offered for sale in retail/hardware stores.

For second offense onwards, the DTI will Notice of Violation to both manufacturers and retailers/distributors shall be issued subject to confiscation and/or destruction and the regular adjudication process. The PS (Philippine Standards) Licenses of the manufacturers and/or operators of bagging facilities shall be suspended.

Under the MC, all locally manufactured and imported cement products shipped in bulk and bagged in a PS Licensed bagging facility shall be permanently marked with the name and address of the manufacturer, the country of manufacture, and the words “Bagged by” followed by the name and address of the bagging facility, PS Mark of the bagging facility, manufacturing date, bagging date and batch identification number, and color band prescribed for 40-kilgoram bags.

Earlier, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez reiterated the importance of transparency and accuracy of the product markings for both locally manufactured and imported cement products.

“It is incumbent upon the importers and/or manufacturers to properly label their products and reflect the country where these products were produced. It will properly guide our consumers, especially at this time of pandemic where we encourage our countrymen to patronize locally produced products to support the economy,” Lopez said.

The trade chief has been actively promoting the “Buy Local, Go Lokal” campaign to prime up the local manufacturing industries as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically hitting the country’s economy.

Lopez stressed that cement manufacturers and operators of bagging facilities must be truthful in declaring the products’ country of origin.

“We encourage and support investments in additional cement processing facilities, but we will also not waiver in our pursuit to ensure level playing fields, both for locally manufactured and imported products. Accurate information through the products’ labels should be provided to the consumers for them to make informed decisions in their choices of consumer products” he added.

“While consumer safety is always one of the department’s priorities, it is also the mandate of DTI to protect and support local manufacturing industries. This is why, the DTI strongly promotes the Buy Local, Go Lokal campaign, encouraging all local consumers to patronize Filipino products and services.”

Aside from the labeling issue, local cement manufacturers and importers are currently engaged in a price war. Local cement manufacturers, who successfully gotten the DTI to issue a safeguard measure of P10 per 40-kilogram bag on imported cement, has petitioned the DTI to suspend the tariff cut reduction if not increase the rate to P12 per bag.

At present, prices of cement are on a downtrend. Laban Konsyumer Inc. said the DTI Price Monitoring 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 hardware stores 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.