Tariff Commission starts probe on cement import duty
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - February 6, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Tariff Commission has started its formal investigation on whether there is a need to impose definitive safeguard duty on imported cement to protect the local industry.

Consumer group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) has asked the Tariff Commission to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the imposition of the provisional safeguard duty while the formal investigation is being conducted to protect consumers, but the body said it is not within its power to issue such.

Tariff Commission chairperson Marilou Mendoza said during the preliminary conference held late Monday it is the first time the body would be handling a case for the imposition of safeguard duty on imports initiated by government as those in the past were petitioned by the domestic industry.

“That’s why we are studying it carefully. The parameters are different because it is a fellow government agency that initiated the action. When it’s domestic industry, they are hurt so, there is a need for a safeguard measure,” she said.

Last month, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in Department Administrative Order 19-02 the DTI would be imposing a provisional safeguard duty of P210 per metric ton of imported cement in the form of a cash bond for a period of 200 days, as cement imports have surged and affected domestic players.

In particular, cement imports went up to more than three million metric tons (MT) in 2017 from only 3,558 MT in 2013.

During the same period, the share of imports in the market rose to 15 percent from just 0.02 percent.

Mendoza said the Tariff Commission would validate the submissions to the body.

“On their end, they (DTI) accepted what was submitted to them on face value and they based their decision based on those unverified submissions. In the case of the commission, we need to verify. The figures might be different upon verification,” she said.

LKI president Victorio Mario Dimagiba said during the preliminary conference the consumer group is enjoining other groups to file a manifestation for a TRO on the imposition of the safeguard duty to protect consumers.

Tariff Commission commissioner Ernesto Albano said, however, the body does not have the power to grant a TRO.

He also said the DTI has stated local cement manufacturers would not be allowed to implement a price increase while the provisional safeguard duty is in place and the investigation of the Tariff Commission is ongoing.

Under Republic Act 8800 or the Safeguard Measures Act, the country can impose safeguard measures or higher duties on imported goods to provide relief to local players.

The safeguard measures can be applied when it is found there is an increase in imports of a certain commodity and such has hurt the local industry.

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