The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has given cement firms until end of the month to toe the line by reducing their prices to reasonable level otherwise a decision would be issued reducing the safeguards tariff to a level that would encourage entry of imported cement.
This developed as the National Price Coordinating Council, which is chaired by Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar V Purisima, noted that the price reduction in cement prices was not acceptable.
"If it does not improve within this month then I think we have to make a decision by the end of the month. We have waited too long," Purisima said exasperated by the obstinacy of some cement firms to heed his call to lower their prices.
He, however, noted that some areas like Davao where the DTI has expressed concern have started to lower prices although not yet at DTI¹s desired level.
Cement prices in Davao, which has a number of cement manufacturing firms, went up to P140 per bag from P120 in December until Purisima personally inspected the cement retail outlets in Davao that prices dropped to P135 per bag as of the first week of this month.
"We are continuing to talk to them. We are trying at best to dialogue with them first and my thinking is that they are being cooperative," Purisima added.
In the first week of February, the DTI monitoring showed that nationwide average price of cement was pegged at P135 per bag just P1 higher than last month¹s average of P134 per bag.
With the continuing resistance of cement firms not to lower prices to acceptable levels, Purisima said, "We will have to figure out what our policy should be."
It could be recalled that before he resigned as DTI Secretary last December, former Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II has already ordered a P5 reduction in the P20.60 safeguards imposed on per bag of imported cement.
The three-year P20.60 safeguard duty for per bag of imported cement will expire in December this year.