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Cement tariffs may be restored

Vol. XXII, No. 190 [ BusinessWorld Online ]

Thursday, April 30, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

THE TRADE department may recommend reimposing tariffs on imported cement by June as a prior Malacañang order to eliminate duties has not brought down cement prices, Secretary Peter B. Favila yesterday said.

A cement industry group hailed this development, saying it will protect the industry from foreign manufacturers looking to dump their excess inventory into the Philippines.

The government, under Executive Order 766 issued last November, had eliminated tariffs on imported cement until June 2009.

Before this, a 3% levy was slapped on Portland cement from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and 5% on cement imported elsewhere.

"If I don’t see prices improve, I will no longer [keep tariffs at 0%]. I’m not excited," Mr. Favila told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s investor recognition day celebration.

"As it turned out, prices haven’t gone down," Mr. Favila said in Filipino.

A 40-kilo sack of Portland cement sold for P205 in Metro Manila in February 2009, latest data from the Trade department Web site show. The price remained unchanged from December 2008 levels.

Asked to comment, Cement Manufacturers of the Philippines (CeMAP) President Ernesto M. Ordoñez said in a telephone interview yesterday: "We are very happy that Secretary Favila is willing to put it back."

"We want to be at par with the rest of the world. We know it is a time when the threats of bad trade practices might occur, especially dumping. [With this,] we promise that we will continue to provide good quality cement and aftersales service," Mr. Ordoñez said.

Also yesterday, Mr. Favila said amendments have not been made to the draft Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) for 2009 since the Board of Investments forwarded its proposal to Malacañang for the President’s approval.

The document is still awaiting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signature, he said.

The draft IPP for the year proposes to grant incentives to troubled firms that retain workers amid the crisis. — Jessica Anne D. Hermosa


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