Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila said in a statement yesterday that the government is prepared to allow greater cement importation if cement manufacturers fail to explain the increases in the prices of cement in the past few weeks.
Noting that the Trade department has been receiving reports of unabated increases in the price of this commodity, particularly in Northern Luzon, Mr. Favila said they would summon cement manufacturers again to explain the rising prices.
It could not be the dealers’ fault, he noted, since the figures they presented to the Trade department showed unchanged margins since January.
Trade department data for January showed that the price of cement has been increasing. Figures the central office collated from the department’s regional and provincial offices showed the prices of cement have increased by an average of P2 to P5 from December levels.
"They (manufacturers) are saying sales are low; so, why are they raising their prices?" the statement quoted Mr. Favila as saying. "As much as possible, I would like to avoid intervention. But the public is already hard put in acquiring this commodity."
Mr. Favila said the department had been notified of an increase in factory prices and has asked cement firms to present the calculations of their inputs.
If the price hikes are not justified, the Trade chief said he would allow the importation of cement from our neighbors in Southeast Asia. "I will see if there are economic reasons for it (rise in prices). If I am not convinced, we may have to intervene," he said.
Mr. Favila and cement manufacturers met last month to discuss the price movements. At that time, the cement makers attributed higher prices to their higher operating costs. They also explained that the upward adjustment occurred after they removed the discounts during the "soft" fourth quarter.