Supreme Court under pressure

Supreme Court under pressure
Published: 11 August 2004

Japanese-owned cement importer Southern Cross Cement Corp yesterday lashed out at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and local cement manufacturers, saying pressure was being applied on the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse a decision declaring safeguard duties on imported cement as illegal.

In a statement, the firm accused the DTI and its competitors of violating  the sub judice rule and of issuing "false, misleading, and irrelevant  statements" to the media. Southern Cross claimed the "media assault" by DTI  and Philcemcor, now known as the Cement Manufacturers Association of the
Philippines or CeMAP, violated the sub judice rule and amounted to an  "unfair assault" against the Supreme Court.

The SC overturned an earlier decision by the Court of Appeals in its ruling last month, saying that then DTI secretary Manuel A. Roxas II had no right  to impose safeguard measures without a favorable recommendation from the  Tariff Commission.  Mr. Roxas set the safeguard duty at P20.60 (later
reduced to P15.60) for every 40-kg bag of cement in June last year despite findings of the Tariff Commission that protective tariffs were not necessary.

Southern Cross, however, said the claim that the ruling will make it harder  to seek protection against cheap imported products is "false." "It should be pointed out that the ceramics and tiles industry as well as the glass industry currently enjoy safeguard protection," it said.

Southern Cross highlighted the fact that safeguards for these industries were backed up by a positive recommendation from the Tariff Commission, unlike the cement safeguard which had "no legal basis."

Southern Cross also said there was no "direct or clear relationship" between employment in the cement industry and the volume of imports in rebutting claims the ruling would result in layoffs.

Moreover, it said there was "nothing nationalistic" behind Philcemcor’s intentions "since 12 members it allegedly represents are owned and controlled by the three largest cement manufacturers and traders in the world" - Lafarge of France, Holcim of Switzerland, and Cemex of Mexico - which control 90% of the local cement industry.

"The Manifestation also belies Philcemcor’s claims in earlier reports that the imposition of safeguards resulted in lower cement prices since the DTI even reduced the P20.60 per bag safeguard measure by P5 per bag due to the failure of Philcemcor to lower its prices," the statement added.