The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is closely coordinating with its regional and provincial offices nationwide in monitoring the trends in cement prices to appropriately respond to any unusual price increases. DTI Secretary Juan B. Santos said cement prices have started to post significant increases as summer sets in. Construction activities normally peak during summer months. Based on the latest price monitoring of the DTI, average retail prices of gray Portland cement nationwide for the period March 1-11 2005 increased by 0.29 per cent from P158.05 (US$2.92) to P158.51 per 40-kilogram bag compared to the fourth week of February 2005. The retail price of cement remained constant for all the other regions nationwide ranging from P153 to P165 per 40-kg bag except for Region III (Cabanatuan) where the average retail price rose from P150 to P154 per 40-kg bag.
The industry claims that the apparent increase in the retail prices of cement since January was due to the increase in the cost of transportation following a series of fuel increases. Local cement manufacturers are seeking an extension on the safeguard measures on gray Portland cement which expired on 09 December 2005. The Tariff Commission (TC) conducted public hearings to investigate the merits of the request for extension.
While the DTI awaits the report of findings from the Tariff Commission, the agency seeks the cement industrys assurance for a stable and steady supply of cement.
Santos said the question of whether to continue with the safeguard measure is now dependent on the motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court. "The review is now being done by the Tariff Commission after which, they would submit it to us, the issue being settled by the Supreme Court in the context of can the Secretary override the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, he said. The Supreme Court will decide whether former Trade and Industry Secretary and now Senator Manuel Roxas II was correct in overriding the decision. It could be recalled that Roxas set aside the Commissions recommendation and went on to proceed with his own, that is the one being contested in court.