By Elijah Felice Rosales, March 11 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is in no rush to impose a suggested retail price (SRP) on cement, as prices of local supply are reportedly stable even with the safeguard duty on imports in place.

In a phone interview, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the DTI has yet to receive any complaint that prices of local cement increased after the government imposed a safeguard duty on imports. This is the reason he has yet to issue an SRP on the commodity.

Further, Lopez claimed prices so far are “behaved” even as the government on February 9 started collecting the P210 per metric ton (MT) tax on imported cement.

Under Department Administrative Order 19-02, Lopez placed a safeguard duty of P210 per MT on cement imports in effect for a period of 200 days. The measure was implemented to protect the domestic industry that reportedly got its market share and sales injured by the surge in imports from 2013 to 2017.

Market share of imports jumped to 15 percent in 2017 from only 0.02 percent in 2013, according to data from the DTI.

Sales of local manufacturers declined 12 percent, or by P11.1 billion, in 2017. They were apparently compelled to reduce prices by nearly 10 percent to compete with cheaper- priced imported cement.

To guard against profiteering and supply shortages, the DTI is mandated under the order to issue an SRP that domestic producers must maintain while the safeguard measure is in effect.

Lopez said he will convene his consumer-protection officials this week to discuss the long-delayed imposition of an SRP on cement. During the meeting, prevailing prices of cement in February will be presented and should determine if there were drastic changes since the safeguard duty took effect.

“I have yet to meet the [DTI’s] Consumer [Protection] Group this week for the SRP [on cement],” Lopez said.

The trade chief has earlier planned to use as basis for the SRP the prevailing prices in December of last year. Prices of local cement in Metro Manila during that month ranged from P220 per 40-kilogram bag to P225, according to data from the DTI.

Lopez vowed on February 28 to issue an SRP for cement last week to prevent local manufacturers from taking advantage of the protectionist regime on the commodity.