BIZ BUZZ: ‘Let the public decide’
No comment” was all that Converge ICT big boss Dennis Anthony Uy was willing to say to the swipe of NOW Corp. of businessman Mel Velarde against one of the former’s firms called Telecommunications Technology Solutions Unlimited Inc. (or Teletech, for short).
But that certainly didn’t prevent other people in the camp of the Pampanga-based billionaire businessman from coming to his defense against what they felt was an attack by NOW Corp. against their business.
As pointed out in our previous edition, NOW Corp. is chafing at what it believes is favorable treatment Uy is receiving from telecommunications regulators.
But Uy’s supporters point to his track record in running a successful telecommunications business versus Velarde’s.
“It’s easy to see who’s telling the truth: just look at which side has the more successful business,” said one official close to Converge. “Who is the billionaire? Who is the one with a company that is actually a major player in the industry? Let the public decide.”
—Daxim L. Lucas
Cement wars: Philippines vs Vietnam?
With the Tariff Commission set to decide soon on whether to extend import duties levied against important cement, things are understandably heating up in the tit-for-tat publicity war between cement importers and one large local manufacturer.
This time, it’s the turn of the local manufacturer to make its case, arguing that imported cement—which accounts for almost a fourth of supply in the Philippine market—is badly hurting local cement makers.
In fact, the local manufacturers are saying that the game plan of cement importers is to swamp the market with their cheaper products so that they can completely kill off the local competition. And naturally, the local guys are warning that thousands of local jobs are at stake, and that billions of pesos in corporate and income taxes will be lost if importers succeed in eliminating local manufacturers from the game.
The local manufacturers are also saying that importers are being unpatriotic since a weakened local cement manufacturing industry will leave the country at the mercy of foreign manufacturers who can dictate prices or squeeze supply whenever it suits their interests.
The local guys note that the Vietnamese Cement Industry Corp. “directs much of the largely state-run industry, acting as a trade association, government unit and cement producer with at least 12 plants under its control.”
This group controls production levels in many of Vietnam’s cement plants, including Vietnam-based plants of multinational firms, with subsidies and cheap raw materials available.
Local manufacturers also point out that Vietnam “dumps” cement in countries like the Philippines, which means prices are set below those in its own domestic market. They point to Vietnam’s low population urbanization rate of 40.4 percent in 2021 as an indicator that the country had a surplus of cement even before the pandemic.
Vietnam also has cheaper production costs, especially in term of wages.
Local manufacturers warn that, given the fast increase in the share of imported cement in the market—from zero in 2013 to 17 percent in 2019 to one-fourth today—the volume of imported cement will continue to steadily increase unless the Tariff Commission extends safeguard measures.
Here’s the thing though: the importers are pointing out that there’s just one local cement firm that’s raising hell over imports. One importer says it might be because this particular cement firm runs a less efficient manufacturing process, while the other local players—who have so far remained quiet— have invested in new facilities that allow them to stand toe to toe against cheaper cement from Vietnam.
In any case, the so-called safeguard duties imposed by the Tariff Commission against imported cement in 2019 will expire next month. Whether the agency will favor local manufacturers and extend this or let it lapse and allow cheaper imports to come in is anybody’s guess at this point. Abangan!
— Daxim L. Lucas INQ
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