Tolentino seeks Senate probe into surge in costs of construction materials amid the pandemic

Published April 2, 2021, 1:48 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Francis Tolentino has urged the Senate to look into the rising cost of construction materials following the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) series of issuance of administrative orders during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino (Senate of the Philippine FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Tolentino noted that the DTI has issued a series of administrative orders unnecessarily subjecting certain basic construction materials—such as plywood, ceramic tiles and roofing supplies—to mandatory product certification.

According to the senator, the high cost of construction materials could negatively impact the Philippine housing industry, especially during a pandemic, which has heavily affected the construction industry. 

“According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), at the height of the enhanced community quarantine, the number and value of construction projects in the first quarter of 2020 shrank by over one-fifth, with construction works also placed on hold,” Tolentino said in his Senate Resolution No. 677.

“The stoppage in construction works meant unemployment for many construction workers,” he pointed out.

As shown in the Year-on-Year growth rate of Construction Materials Retail Price Index (CMRPI), Tolentino noted the price of construction materials in the National Capital Region grew from 0.6 percent in January 2020 to 1.2 percent in January 2021.

In the midst of the pandemic, he said the DTI issued a department administrative order (DAO) No. 20-06, which reinstated plywood in the list of products required to undergo mandatory product certification in October 2020. 

Shortly afterwards, it issued another order, DAO No. 20-09, adding ceramic tiles on the list and requiring local manufacturers to secure a Philippine Standard (PS) Quality Certification Mark license. 

DTI also issued DAO No. 20-10, this time requiring manufacturers of hot-dip metallic-coated and pre-painted galvanized coils and sheets, whether local or foreign, for roofing and general applications, to also obtain same safety certification license. It also required importers to source their products only from foreign manufacturers holding valid PS licenses.

Products covered by the mandatory certification cannot be distributed in the Philippine market without the necessary PS or Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) Certification Scheme.

On top of these, Tolentino said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) also issued a memorandum circular (23-2021) that required importers of construction materials to submit a Certificate of Conditional Release pursuant to DTI’s DAOs for ceramic tiles and roofing materials prior to the release of their shipments from BOC custody.

“The implementation of the DTI issuances has caused unnecessary delays by prescribing additional and lengthy procedures prior to the sale, distribution, and importation of construction materials,” Tolentino lamented.

“Inevitably, this will entail additional costs for importers, and may even cause a temporary supply shortage of construction materials, which in turn, will result in price inflation,” he pointed out.

The senator said the steel industry has also appealed to the DTI to be given enough time to comply with the new requirements and dispose of their shipments which have already arrived or have been ordered prior to the effectivity of the DAOs.

“There were also allegations that public consultations with stakeholders were not properly held,” he said.

Tolentino warned these additional requirements may cause further delays in the Duterte government’s “Build, build, build” program.

He also said these DAOs may also undermine Republic Act No. 11517, which authorizes the President to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications in times of national emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.