Pro-import DTI chief riles local traders

Published by rudy Date posted on July 23, 2010

New Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo who was supposedly appointed by President Aquino to a one-year term, did not waste time in earning the displeasure of his constituents in the local domestic industries who are now up in arms over his alleged sweeping statement that greatly favors imports and sub-standard products.

Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) president Jesus Arranza, in a statement, said the new policy directions boasted by Domingo at a meeting with members of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) recently made it appear that Domingo wants to adopt the law of the jungle or a survival of the fittest and the elimination of the unfit among local businesses.

“It appears from the statement of Secretary Domingo that the present dispensation favors trading than manufacturing, that he favors importers who bring in sub-standard products than domestic manufacturers who employ millions of Filipinos and remit billions of taxes to the government,” Arranza said.

Domingo supposedly said before the PCCI that he will seek the easing of the entry of imports into the country and apparently said that industries that could not compete should just be allowed to fade away.

Arranza said the bias of Domingo to exports is a valid reason for the government to go back to the old set-up of having a separate Department of Trade and Commerce, and a Department of Industry.

Arranza said local business groups are meeting with Domingo on July 28

to clarify the statements he issued before the PCCI meeting.

On the issue of mandatory testing of some imported products, Domingo should first look back at the reasons behind the setting up of the process which is being considered as slowing down the release of imported products.

“There has been an unabated influx of substandard products ranging from food to construction materials, like ceramic tiles and steel bars. This prompted the FPI and the Philippine Product Safety and Quality Foundation (PPSQF) to work for the setting up of standards because under the World Trade Organization (WTO), protection of environment, health and the safety of people are allowed since it is not to be considered as a non-tariff barrier,” Arranza said.

On Domingo’s proposal to speed up the issuance of import commodity clearances (ICCs), Arranza said local trade groups worked hard for the ICC to undergo very strict printing process since before, the ICC certificates were being printed by importers themselves.

“The ICC is meant to protect the safety of our people. It is quite absurd that the Secretary of Trade, in whose department the BPS (Bureau of Product Standards) is an organic agency, will advocate for quick release and conditional release of the ICCs,” he said.

“He should have studied that a lot of those products that were released on conditional release before were sold even prior to examinations, so the harm has been done already even before the government could even determine if they are substandard items,” he added.

These were not just set up based on the whims and caprices of the people in the industry and were not meant to deter trade but to protect the safety of the consumer, which is one of the main functions of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the Consumer Welfare Act.

Are we just throwing away all these, all the hard work of the industry, especially now that the Filipino people are starting to discern the highest class of standards? Arranza said.

“I hope that some of our members who attended the PCCI meeting just misunderstood the secretary. But if it were true, I appeal to Secretary Domingo to hold on to it until the domestic industries were given the chance to air their side,” he said.

As to the status of some industries, it is not right to issue a sweeping statement that those who could not compete should just be allowed to fade away, Arranza added.

“I recall before that Secretary Jose Concepcion said that the coconut industry had no future, that it was already a sunset industry. But as you can see now, the coconut industry (recovered) strongly,” he said.

Now we have the bio-diesel, oleo-chemicals, and one of the strongest net dollar earners in the country, he added.

“Local industries have been trying their best to survive in an atmosphere where smugglers and importers are slowly eating up the market because of the authorities’ neglect,” he added. –Ayen Infante, Daily Tribune

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