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Tariff Commission caps public hearings on safeguard duty for imported cement

MANILA, Philippines – The Tariff Commission (TC) has wrapped up the public hearings on the safeguard measure on imported cement, giving both cement importers and manufacturers until the end of the month to submit their last stand on the issue.

The commission concluded the hearings  late Tuesday afternoon, after some of the country’s largest cement manufacturers tried to prove that they were adversely affected by the recent surge in imported cement.

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The decision on whether or not to impose a definitive safeguard measure on imported cement will now boil down to both the TC chairperson and the commissioner, who might have to both agree on the issue given the lack of a third person to complete a panel.

“Personally, I learned a lot. The decision, I think, has become clearer now,” said TC Chairperson Marilou Mendoza during the last few minutes of the hearing, without divulging her position.

The conclusion of the hearings came earlier than expected.

The commission originally scheduled the entire week to hear both sides on an issue that was raised, not by manufacturers, but by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

On the sidelines, Mendoza told reporters after the hearing that it was the cement manufacturers, not the pure importers, who has the burden of proof.

The importers, for their part, did not submit any affidavit to the commission.

She said both sides have until the end of the month to submit their final comments to the commission, following what transpired during two days of public hearings.

It is unclear when the commission will release a decision.

Currently, imported cement still carry the weight of a P8.40 per bag of imported cement, or a safeguard duty of P210 per metric ton.

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After a preliminary investigation, DTI slapped the provisional safeguard duty on imported cement sometime in February, which will last for 200 days since the DTI order took effect.

DTI claims that prices have remained stable.

This, however, is not the first time that a safeguard measure was considered against imported cement. But back in 2002, cement manufacturers have lost their case after the commission didn’t find  elements of neither a serious injury nor an imminent threat of serious injury from imports.

“Although there have been declines in the industry’s sales volume and market share and a downward trend in production and capacity utilization in 2000, they are not considered significant,” the commission report, dated in 2002, read.

During the hearing on Monday, the Cement Manufacturers’ Association of the Philippines asked the commission for an even higher definitive safeguard duty, after the volume of imported cement still grew in the first quarter despite the tariff.

It remains to be seen, however, if cement manufacturers will be met with the same fate from several years ago.

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TAGS: business news, Cement, cement manufacturers, importers, Tariff Commission, tax
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