Agency mandate puts construction industry in peril

Trade officials may have unwittingly set themselves up in a collision course with President Duterte, who has vowed to cut bureaucratic red tape and ease the process of doing business in the country by imposing burdensome requirements on importers.

Industry executives said the infrastructure projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program have been imperiled by high construction costs resulting from cement prices brought to stratospheric heights as a result of a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) order.

The DTI earlier issued a department administrative order (DAO) requiring importers to secure an import commodity clearance (ICC) on top of the “PS” or Philippine Standard mark for imported cement. The DAO, however, exempts from the  ICC requirement the big cement manufacturers operating integrated cement plants in the country, but also importing the commodity.

Executives fear the DTI imposition will jeopardize the President’s vow in his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 25, 2016, and repeated in his second Sona on Monday, July 24, to combat corruption in government.

“A year ago I also warned [the] government officials and employees that I will never tolerate corruption in my administration, not even a whiff of it. Let the dismissal of several high-ranking officials—whom I myself appointed—serve as a warning to all that I will never back down on my commitment to cleanse this government,” Duterte said.

Duterte is aware that corruption is still happening.

“Since we launched this hotline [8888], we have received numerous complaints from the public on [the] government…slow government processing and clearance, of changing procedures and requirements, centralized issuance of clearances and permits in Metro Manila and discourteous government employees, among others,” Duterte added in his second Sona.

The President also bared plans to summon officials facing complaints from the public. If proven to have committed irregularities, Duterte said, he would ask them to resign or he would fire them.

But, according to industry executives, those in the DTI have turned a deaf ear to the President’s resolve to cut red tape in the government and have issued an order imposing an additional burden on small cement importers.