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Cement safeguard impact to be probed

The Tariff Commission (TC) is set to probe the potential impact on the market of the safeguard duties on cement.

An ocular inspection has been scheduled by the TC for February 18 to April 15 in line with concerns over safeguard duties endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to the commission.

The inspection will allow further verification of information submitted by the DTI with regards to the case, TC chairperson Marilou Mendoza said at the sidelines of a preliminary hearing on the matter.

She said they planned to take into account the industry performance and employment, among others.

The TC will complete the investigation and submit the result to DTI within 120 calendar days, but “the probe could be finished in 60 days if the DTI marked the case as “urgent,” she added.

Further, the official said a public hearing would be held on May 6 to 10 to “give all interested parties who submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the Commission the opportunity to be heard and to present evidence including the opportunity to respond to the presentations of other parties and to submit their views.”

Should the TC approve the provisional safeguard, it would be implemented for three to four years until another study is conducted to evaluate its impact to local market players, consumers and the industry as a whole, she said.

“They can petition for an extension” which can be based on another investigation, she added.

It was the first case a government agency imposed safeguard duty on imports, Mendoza said.

“It was the first time motu propio safeguard investigation that was endorsed to our Commission. The previous cases that we handled were petitioned by domestic industries,” she said.

Meanwhile, Laban Konsyumer President Victorio Dimagiba sought from the TC a temporary restraining order against the safeguard duty, saying the consumers should not be compelled to pay more for cement.

“Since everything is preliminary, based on preliminary findings, why should consumers bear the brunt [the P210 duty per metric ton] on February 9?” Dimagiba, referring to date set by the DTI for the safeguard duty to take effect, said.

But the TC denied Dimagiba’s petition. TC Commissioner Ernesto Albano said the commission “doesn’t have power over [a] fellow government agency.”

Albano also noted that the DTI ordered cement firms to maintain prices amid the ongoing investigation.