By Janina C. Lim, April 21 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Reuters

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it will expedite the permit process for the construction of steel plants in the Philippines on orders from President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“[Trade] Secretary [Ramon M.]Lopez vowed to closely coordinate with all government agencies so that permits and licenses for critical steel projects are issued within 20 days from filing and to intensify DTI’s effort in tracking and weeding out substandard steel from the market — particularly as these are typically being used in lower-end housing,” according to a DTI statement issued last week.

Mr. Duterte recently assigned the DTI to monitor and coordinate all government efforts to ensure the timely implementation of investment projects that will bring integrated steelmaking to the country.

“President Duterte assured investors that government will address the two issues raised: 1) slow permit and licensing processes [e.g., land conversion, environmental permits] and 2) absence of level playing field because of sub-standard imported and locally-manufactured steel,” the DTI said.

At present, Steel Asia Manufacturing Corp. is the only domestic firm with current plans to put up an integrated iron and steel plant.

Steel Asia will operate in partnership with Hesteel Group Co. Ltd., a Chinese iron and steel conglomerate.

The production facility will initially process iron ore and later, major intermediate steel products like billet and slab steel, which are all currently imported.

The country also relies mainly on imports for both flat and long steel products, except for rebar which it produces from imported billet.

Steel Asia President Benjamin O. Yao said jobs in the steel industry are expected to double from the current 10,500 to around 21,000.

Job multipliers in support industries will also result in the creation of 52,500 more jobs, doubling the jobs in support industries job to around 126,000.

“Once the integrated steel facility becomes operational along with the revival of the flat segment, steel industry jobs and its related industries could also potentially double up to 300,000 personnel,” Mr. Yao was quoted in the statement as saying. — Janina C. Lim