Zero cement tariffs will lay-off workers

THE Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade), a broad multisectoral coalition advocating trade and economic reforms, opposed yesterday a proposal at the Tariff Commission to allow importation of cement at zero tariff.

FairTrade lead convenor Wigberto Tañada said that manufacturers in China, Taiwan, Japan and other competing countries would be shipping their cement to the Philippines especially when they run out of silos and warehouses to store their quick-hardening cement.

Tañada expressed alarm yesterday that cement imports will harvest the benefits of the billion-peso infrastructure program to the detriment of the local cement industry.

There will be unfair competition, the Tañada said, because the imports will sell excess production at prices much lower than the prices in their respective countries.

“These excess capacities are targeted for the Philippines because of our fast growing market for infrastructure building,” Tañada said.  “There is no more room for this quick hardening surplus cement in their silos and warehouses,” he said. “The factories in China, Japan and other countries would ship them out at artificially low prices. They have little to lose.”

Ironically, he said, the government itself could be encouraging the massive entry of imports by eliminating import tariff of five per cent (MFN).

“We are like surrendering the market to imports on a silver platter,” Tañada reiterated.

Predatory pricing by imports is aimed at exterminating local manufacturers, he said. Once the imports control the market, they will dictate the prices.

Also, Tañada said that the country should be consistent with its objective of building self-sufficiency in cement, a strategic raw material that supports the labor-intensive construction industry.

“If we become vulnerable to fluctuations in supply of cement in the world market, our construction industry would face risks of project postponements and even cancellations,” he said.

“Many of our labor force in the labor-intensive construction business would be thrown out of work,” he said.

Further, Tañada said, the quality of cement imports is not as closely checked and monitored as Philippine cement.

“The Filipino and domestic manufacturing industries should be supported and nurtured,” he said.

He said there are 10 domestic companies already competing in the local market.

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  • Founded in 2001, the Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) of the Philippines is a broad multisectoral coalition of formal and informal labor, industry, agriculture, NGOs and youth pushing for trade and economic reforms.
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