Local cement manufacturers have failed to convince the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to retain the safeguard duty on imported cement. Cement imports are currently charged with a definitive duty of P20.60 per 40-kg bag to help protect domestic industries. After reviewing the definitive duty imposed last July, however, DTI has decided to reduce the amount after concluding that cement companies have abused the safeguard duty. "We have reviewed that data and we have concluded that recent price increases are not warranted by increase in factory inputs," said outgoing Sec. Manuel A. Roxas II last Wednesday, just before resigning from his post. While refusing to give details, Mr. Roxas said "it would be a meaningful reduction." He said he has already signed the order which will be published immediately. The move came after DTI monitoring showed that prices of domestically produced cement reached P120 per bag last October or 10% more than the January retail price of P109. Cement prices have reached P150 per bag in certain areas in Visayas and Mindanao. Prices in Luzon have gone up to P120 per bag from P100 to P115. "Although the cement companies claimed they have not raised ex-plant prices, we do not agree. We find it hard to agree that they have no control in the price of distributors," Mr. Roxas pointed out.