The Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has decided to slash P5 off the definitive safeguard duties imposed on all cement imports over the past two years after local producers failed to justify the recent increases in the domestic cement prices. In a press conference, acting Trade Secretary Cristobal Jr. told reporters that the DTI has issued a department order reducing the P20.6 per bag definitive safeguard duties imposed on all cement imports to P15.6 per bag. Cristobal said the new duties would take effect two weeks after the publication of the order and after the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Customs issue the corresponding orders for the reduction of the punitive tariffs. As early as September, then trade secretary Manuel Roxas II ordered the immediate review of the safeguard duties imposed on all cement imports after prices of cement went up despite the lack of construction activities due to the onset of the rainy season. Cement prices have reached as high as P150 per bag in certain areas in the Visayas and Mindanao. On the other hand, cement prices in Luzon including Metro Manila have gone up to as high as P120 per bag from P110 per bag. Under Republic Act 8800 or the Safeguard Measures Act of 2000, DTI found merit in the petition filed by the Philippine Cement Manufacturers Corp. (Philcemcor) and imposed a provisional safeguard duty of P20.6 per bag November of 2001. The P20.6 provisional duty was made definitive in June of last year and is expected to be imposed on all cement imports until the end of this year. Although there is a need to continue protecting major players in the local cement industry, the DTI deemed it proper to reduce the definitive safeguard duty to protect the consumers. The reduction is enough to induce imports to come in that would likely force local producers to reduce cement prices. With the reduction, however, local producers are expected to incur higher losses compared to last year¹s P700 million due to lower demand and increasing cost of inputs.