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7 January 2010
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Philippine ministry to decide on cement price caps Friday

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will decide this week whether cement price controls are needed after observing cases of profiteering, Business World daily reported, quoting Secretary Peter B. Favila.

Cement manufacturers, meanwhile, bucked the plan to impose caps, saying their cooperation with the government should be enough to prevent retailers from unreasonably jacking up prices.

"By Friday, I’ll be able to make a decision on [whether to recommend] price control," Favila said in a telephone interview. "Retailers claim they acquired the cement at so much. They have up to January 7 to show evidence," Favila said.

The department warned on Monday that it might resort to dictating prices after market visits found 150 retailers selling cement way beyond the suggested retail price of 205 peso per 40-kilo bag. It said sellers may be taking advantage of consumers who need to repair storm-damaged homes.

Under the Price Act (Republic Act 7581), the President -- upon the Trade secretary’s recommendation -- may impose a price ceiling on cement if there is, among others, "prevalence or widespread acts of illegal price manipulation".

An industry group representing cement makers, meanwhile, said prices and supply were stable at their end.

"There is more than enough cement supply as evidenced by short queuing lines to pick up cement in plants ... Any significant increase in Metro Manila is done by dealers or retailers who should be charged with profiteering," Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines President Ernesto M. Ordoñez said in a text message yesterday.

The Trade department’s moves to charge erring retailers should be enough and resorting to price controls "are not necessary", he added. "Manufacturers are working with the Trade department to help stop overpricing and possible hoarding."

Holcim Philippines, the country’s leading manufacturer in terms of factory capacity, likewise said they should not be blamed.

"We have not changed our suggested retail price. There is normal supply and there are no lines [of delivery trucks] at the plant," Eduardo A. Sahagun, Holcim Philippines senior vice-president for sales, said in a telephone interview.

Holcim, he added, has also long offered direct selling to consumers in Metro Manila seeking to cut through dealers’ mark-ups.


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