The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is intent on supporting the development of the Construction Industry as a whole, from the supply side to the consumer side.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez declared this position even as he reiterated that the Department Administrative Order (DAO) 17-02, as amended by DAO 17-05:2017, would evenly protect consumers from sub-standard cement while supporting the Cement Industry.

“Whether addressing the quality of cement or steel products, the government needs to ensure the healthy state of the Construction Industry as our partner in the Build Build Build Program to create the Golden Age of Infrastructure,” Sec. Lopez said.

“This order would also support our initiatives in disaster preparedness, especially with President Duterte urging Congress during his State of the Nation Address to pass a law that would establish an agency that tackles recent disasters like the Leyte earthquake,” he added.

The trade chief issued this statement after groups criticized the DAO for being discriminatory and unfair for requiring importers to secure an import commodity clearance (ICC) on cement imports. He reiterated that this is being done to protect consumers and ensure standard compliance. Big users have their equipment to re-test standards but smaller consumers would rely on standards verification seal issued by the government.

Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said that through supportive initiatives like the DAO, DTI is focusing on a holistic approach to the development of the Construction Industry for quality infrastructure, necessarily including high grade construction materials like steel and cement to ensure structural integrity.

Usec. Castelo heads the Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business Group (CEODBG), of which the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines (CIAP) is a part of.

“This holistic approach will ensure that quality products, high engineering standards, experienced construction companies, and a competent Filipino construction labor force are integral elements of the Philippine Construction Industry,” Usec. Castelo said.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo concurred with his colleague, noting that DTI has always adhered to Sec. Lopez’s marching orders not to protect industries but rather, to support them.

“We look at construction materials as strategic inputs and we encourage domestic value-adding through incentives and industry planning, not through protection,” said Usec. Rodolfo, who heads DTI’s Industry Development and Trade Policy Group.

“We see Infrastructure Growth and Industry Development as mutually reinforcing. We want a certain level of domestic self-sufficiency to ensure the long-term sustainability of competitively-priced, quality supply,” he added.

Usec. Rodolfo pointed out that the demand for cement needs to be sustained in particular, hence the level of domestic sufficiency is critical.

“Our annual per capita cement consumption currently stands at only about 210 kgs as of 2014. This is way below that of Thailand at about 430 kgs., Viet Nam with 520 kgs., China with 1,581 kgs., and Indonesia with 230kgs. In filling the need for cement, we do not want to completely be at the mercy of global supply and demand factors,” the trade undersecretary said.

Meanwhile, Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya, who heads DTI’s Regional Operations Group (ROG), gave assurances that the DTI Regional Departments (RDs) and Provincial Departments (PDs) would take swift action on the product testing of the cement products to ensure that they are compliant to Philippine standards.

“By certifying the quality of cement products used in building throughout the regions, we can avoid possible negative impact of natural disasters like earthquakes on regional business,” Maglaya said.

DTI issued the DAO to address imports that were found to have incomplete markings. These cement bags that did not have any manufacturing date and batch number were being sold in hardware stores in the provinces.

Manufacturing dates and batch numbers allow DTI to determine the age of the cement and where the product comes from to ensure the quality of the cement product and trace it back to the source.

DTI has already undertaken a number of consultations on the DAO to address issues and concerns by key stakeholders and industry players and shall continue to fine tune procedures that will ensure—without unnecessary delay—that products that reach consumers are standard compliant.