Philippine cement manufacturers yesterday assailed the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Trade department’s decision to allow the importation of unmarked Chinese cement in the region. Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (CeMAP) president Ernesto Ordonez and Holcim Philippines, Inc. hit the entry of the Chinese shipments in ARMM and Central Mindanao that lack the name and address of the importer and the manufacture date. These markings, they said, were required for quality control by the Bureau of Product Standards under the Philippine National Standards.
"These mandatory requirements were imposed by the BPS to protect the buying public and to ensure that structures built using imported cement will be safe and durable. For this reason, we were surprised that the ICC (import commodity clearance) was issued without prior strength testing and without the traceability markings," Francis Felizardo, Holcim Philippines senior vice-president for sales and marketing, said in a July 10 letter to ARMM-DTI chief Ishak V. Mastura.
In his July 11 reply to Mr. Felizardo, Mr. Mastura defended his office’s decision to approve the Chinese shipment by Conch Cement. Inspection by DTI-ARMM personnel, he noted, showed that the product complied with the physical and chemical property requirements.
"As an autonomous region with our own Organic Act, the ARMM government can actually pass its own laws or its agencies like the DTI-ARMM promulgate its own rules and regulation in the conduct of government affairs," he said in his July 11 letter.
"We have investigated for ourselves the reliability of the brand of the recent cement importation in the ARMM, and, even as we speak, we are conducting a second testing, even though the imported cement’s prearranged test certificate had already exceeded the quality standard for cement in the country," Mr. Mastura added.
According to CeMAP, there were two shipments of cement from China since late June. One shipment, in Davao City, totaled 44,745t. The other shipment was divided between the Port of Polloc in Cotabato City, which received 5000t and General Santos City, which received 3200t.
Mr. Ordonez said these shipments actually have "negligible" effects on the industry, since they involve minimal volumes compared with the overall demand in the region. Holcim said the region has a 70,000-bag average daily requirement, which the company can easily fulfill.
Nevertheless, CeMAP is treating the Chinese import situation as a "landmark case," fearing it would encourage other importers to follow suit. "It will set a precedent. We consider it a test case. It will destroy the market," Mr. Ordonez said. "The DTI secretary should decide on whether ARMM should have its own rules."
CeMAP is composed of Northern Cement, Pacific Cement, Tai-heiyo Cement Philippines, Inc. CEMEX Philippines, Holcim Philippines, and Lafarge Associated Companies in the Philippines.