THE PHILIPPINE steel industry has adjusted to import competition after the end of a decade-long imposition of safeguard duties on angle bars, according to the Tariff Commission.
Safeguard measures on steel angle bars were extended up to 2019 after the local industry reported serious injury from import competition under Republic Act 8800 or the Safeguard Measures Act.
The commission assessed the local industry’s performance in executing a plan to help it adjust to external pressures while safeguard duties were still in place.
“The actions that the steel angle bar industry undertook to improve production efficiencies and expand output were effective,” the agency said in an April report. “The domestic industry has attained a level of efficiency that will allow it to compete successfully against imports after the termination of the safeguard measure.”
Local producers have more than doubled to 21 this year from 10 in 2009.
The Tariff Commission said the local industry had kept a dominant market position and expanded production and sales, generating P5.8 billion in average yearly sales from 2014 to 2019.
“If no safeguard duty was imposed, the domestic industry would not have been able to easily invest in the implementation of efficiency measures, and they would have continued production at relatively higher prices,” it said.
It added that a narrower price gap between imported and locally produced steel angle bars showed a successful adjustment to competition.
Jose Salvador Rivera, Jr., who lawyered for the petitioners — Cathay Metal Corp., Dragon Asia Rolling Mills, Inc. and Lunar Steel Corp. — in February said the safeguards need not be extended after the sector posted financial growth.
But Ramon Tan, president of a segment of the industry, the Steel Angles, Shapes and Sections Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. said the duties would protect them while unregistered angle bars continue to enter the country.
In its report, the Tariff Commission said the local industry must continue to sustain competitiveness amid a coronavirus pandemic to avoid wasting gains made in the past decade.
“It is similarly imperative that the government do its part, by creating the conditions that will lead to a more stable and predictable business environment and promote ease of doing business in the new normal environment,” it added. — Jenina P. Ibañez