Tariff Commission is against self-reliance on cement

The recent recommendation of the Tariff Commission not to extend the anti-dumping duty on cement imports collides head-on with the avowed preference of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for self-reliance.

In one of his speeches, the President deplored the situation in which Filipinos eat imported galunggong or mackerel scad which used to be a staple fish.

“I asked for help with our fisheries sector because I am obsessed with the fact that the Philippines imports galunggong, I cannot accept it,” Marcos said after he sought the assistance of Indonesian President Joko Widodo in improving the fisheries sector.

The same viewpoint applies to the cement industry which is reeling under the flood of cheap imports mainly from Vietnam but still, the TC concluded that the domestic industry is “making a positive adjustment to import competition.”

BBM’s determination to end import dependence should have been heeded by the tariff regulator in its recommendation to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines executive director Cirilo Pestano said the TC should have taken umbrage on the President’s wisdom in taking the position that a careful balance must be attained between protecting consumers against rising prices of basic commodities and ensuring the viability of local industries.

This was expressed in the President’s decision to stop the controversial importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

“This policy should be extended to other local industries that are facing equally serious threats from the influx of imports,” Pestano added.

The domestic cement industry’s morale has been lifted with the victory of BBM who has taken a Filipino-first stance during the campaigns as he expressed his aversion to massive importation in one of the pre-poll debates.

“We share with the sugar sector, the encouragement to improve the local industry after the President’s action against the flood of imported products,” Pestano averred.

CeMAP had asked the TC to impose anti-dumping duties against Type 1 and Type 1P cement imports from Vietnam, and to extend the safeguard measures slapped against cement imports in 2019 that expire this month.

Crippling local producers are the imports mainly from Vietnam being retailed at ridiculously low prices despite the anti-dumping levy and high cost of fuel.

Fuel makes up more than 60 percent of the overhead in the production of cement.

Such low prices raise suspicions of smuggling, according to some industry players.

The share of imports to domestic production in terms of volume increased steadily from zero in 2013 to 5.3 million metric tons in 2019, increasing further to 6.88 MMT in 2021.

On the other hand, the percentage in the share of imports to domestic production rose from zero in 2013 to 26.09 percent in 2019, rising further to 38.42 percent in 2021.

CeMAP’s data indicate that as of 2021 around 91 percent of cement imports were from Vietnam.

TC should have extended the wing of protection on local industries rather than mercilessly inviting wolves to feast.

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