BAGUIO CITY – The country’s lucrative cement industry will directly feel the initial impact of the upcoming implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) free trade next year with the expected influx of much cheaper and better quality cement from the 10-member nations, a mineral industry expert said during the opening of the 61st Annual Mine Safety and Environment Conference (AMSEC) here Wednesday.
Engr. Louie Sarmiento, president of the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA), said cement industry stakeholders are now trying to outline the appropriate safety nets to be enforced by the Philippine government in order to prevent the serious negative impact of the free trade to the industry, especially in terms of employment and business operations in the different parts of the archipelago.
“The cement industry will be the one to initially feel the impact of the ASEAN integration because cheaper and better quality cement from Taiwan and China are expected to flood the country during the start of the free trade,” Sarmiento stressed.
The PMSEA official claimed cement industry stakeholders should now consider the pricing of the considered prime commodity in order for local cement products to compete side by side in terms of price and quality with that of other cement manufactured in the different parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
Engr. Felizardo Gacad, president of the Philippine Society of Mining Engineers, said cement industry stakeholders and representatives of concerned government agencies must be able to craft the necessary stop gap measures and safety nets in order to prevent the local cement industry from being significantly affected by the influx of cheaper and quality cement from neighboring countries, saying that the receiving country can impose stringent rules in order to prevent local products from being affected by the influx of similar products as a result of the free trade.
“Even professionals are expected to be affected by the provisions on free trade and services that is why all sectors are now bracing up for what will be the initial effects of the ASEAN integration to the status of their goods and services. It is an accepted fact that integration, which is part of the overall concept of global competitiveness, is just right around the corner,” Gacad said.
He cited with more cement products available in the market, consumers can now select which among them would be the best for their respective domestic or commercial projects considering that all those that will be made available in the market have passed stringent international standards of manufacturing.
Gacad explained for several decades now, Filipinos had been complaining of the high cement prices in the local markets even if the materials used in the manufacturing of cement can be sourced out in the country unlike other parts of the ASEAN region where cheaper prices of cement prevail but with the same quality as those manufactured in the country.
He appealed to cement industry experts to instead fastrack the crafting of pertinent safety nets to prevent imported cement products from derailing the industry which is considered as one of the country’s economic drivers.