The Philippine Cement Importers Association Inc. asked the Trade Department to explain its motive for initiating an investigation on imported cement which it said could exacerbate the cement shortage in the country.
PCIA president Napoleon Co said it was a bit perplexing why a motu proprio investigation was necessary when the country was following open trade.
“We wonder why after cement importation spiked due to shortage of supply, the Trade secretary, on his own initiative, wants to impose an additional safeguard duty to protect domestic cement factories,” he said.
Co said there was no need for the Trade secretary to protect the robust domestic cement industry, given its massive earnings.
Cement manufacturers continue to rake in huge profits, posting industry sales of P109 billion and industry earnings of P14.7 billion in 2017, he said.
The importers group said this year, several cement companies earned billions of pesos from sales, ranging from P11.2 billion to P27.3 billion in the first three quarters.
Importers warned that an additional safeguard duty on cement importation would result in price increase and would aggravate the shortage, as it would take three to four years to commission new plants.
PCIA said that after the importers ran to the rescue of the government to address the shortage, they were now being threatened by an additional safeguard duty to discourage or stop importation.
Co said several importers halted cement importation after the Trade Department launched the safeguard investigation in September.
He said the imposition of an additional safeguard duty on cement importation would not be a good move at this time given the increasing shortage of cement supply.
The government’s massive ‘Build, Build, Build’ program would face delays due to severe cement shortage, he said.
Sale of cement is now being rationed or allocated in several parts of the country as cement production and importation could not cope with the strong demand, the group said.
Cement demand jumped to 28.5 million tons in 2017 and is forecast to increase to nearly 30 million tons this year.
The importers group said the government encouraged importation of cement to fill in the shortage of 2.5 million tons in 2016 and almost 3 million tons in 2017.
Even cement manufacturers Holcim, Republic, and Apo are three of the biggest importers of cement, the group said.