Consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) urged the government to recall the new department administrative order (DAO) on cement importation to remove suspicion of graft.
“I just want the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI] to recall the DAO and rewrite a uniform technical regulation applicable to imported cement to remove suspicion of graft and maintain product quality for all,” LKI president Vic Dimagiba told The Manila Times in a text message on Monday.
“DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez claims that manufacturers are low-risk,” Dimagiba added.
Earlier, Lopez defended the fairness and legality of the DAO issued on cement importation currently being attacked by importers.
He said cement manufacturers that import cement are not required to secure an ICC as they are classified as “low-risk,” therefore likely to ensure product quality and would not risk brand reputation.
“The only reason post import standard is being done is to ensure consumer protection. This is also being done in other countries. We need to protect consumers from possible sub-standard imported cement. Lives can be endangered if substandard cement gets into the market,” Lopez said.
The new DAO, which was issued in February, requires the application of the Philippine Standards licenses on foreign producers of cement imports and import commodity clearance on cement imports, as well as setting a required minimum paid capitalization of P20 million for all the cement importers to weed out fly by night importers.
Moreover, Dimagiba also told The Manila Times that the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) should release their findings now as the complaint has been pending for almost a year.
Earlier this year, the PCC issued a letter saying they found reasonable grounds to proceed with a full administrative investigation on the cement industry for possible violations of Sections 14 and 15 of the Philippine Competition Act (Republic Act 10667).
The move is in response to the affidavit-complaint filed by Dimagiba.
According to the affidavit, Ernesto Ordoñez, in his capacity as president of the Cement Manufacturers Association (CeMAP), LaFarge Holcim Philippines Inc., and Republic Cement and Building Materials Inc. supposedly violated the provisions of the Philippine Competition Act by engaging in anti-competitive agreements.
These agreements supposedly include restricting competition as to price or components thereof or other terms of trade, abusing their dominant position by engaging in conduct that prevents, restricts, or lessens competition, imposing barriers to entry, or committing acts that prevent competitors from growing within the market, the affidavit claims.
Ordoñez said that they were not furnished a copy or notified of the complaint filed by Dimagiba.
“Fairness requires that both sides are heard. Not only were we not given a chance to be heard. More than a month after our letter to PCC asking what the complaint is about so we could give our side, we still have no reply from PCC,” Ordoñez said.
He said law firm Cruz, Marcelo and Tenefrancia wrote PCC on January 25, 2017 inquiring about the complaint.