SteelAsia wants level playing field in PH, hits imports

The steel industry called for a level playing field against importers to realize the potential of local producers.

“All we’re really asking is a level playing field. If it’s easy for the importers to bring in imports, then all of them will come here,” SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp. said over the weekend.

“With them it only takes 45 days to get their products here but with us, it takes us two to three years to put up a manufacturing plant. That’s not fair,” it said.

The company noted that the Trade Department was lways keen on attracting investors in the Philippines, “but if it’s easier for a non-investor to do business, all investments are put to naught.”

It said bringing in imports during times of crisis or a production shortfall to meet the demand was reasonable “but we have to safeguard quality.”

The local steel sector, a source said, was also facing a challenging period amid an expected rise in demand once public infrastructure program of the Duterte government took off.

The government vowed to increse public spending to support the economy and create more jobs.

“So there is much room for expansion. Capitol Steel Corp.and Pag-Asa Steel Works Inc have expansion programs in the pipeline, and so are we. We’re bridging the gap of supply and demand and preparing to address the future needs [for steel],” SteelAsia said.

SteelAsia registered with the Board of Investments its two expansion projects in Bulacan and Cebu that will add 2,000 metric tons of capacity for rebar production. Philippine consumption of rebars is placed at 4,000 MT annually.

The Philippines is expected to post a significant increase in steel consumption, along with Indonesia and Vietnam, due to relatively fast-growing economies.

The Philippine Iron and Steel Institute said the combined per capita consumption of the three economies comprised about a third of the world’s average per capita consumption of 225 kilograms.

Despite the growing demand, steel and iron makers were wary of a prevailing view that steel would remain in excess supply and cheap for quite sometime, PISI president Roberto Cola, who is concurrently the president of Southeast Asia Iron and Steel Institute, said.

Recent data show that steel consumption in the Asean 6, composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, registered a 6.3-percent growth to 67 million metric tons in 2014 from 63 million MT in apparent consumption in 2013.

The region’s net importation of around 40 million MT comprised the bulk of the 2014 demand.

The Asean 6’s steel consumption is projected to grow 5 percent to 6 percent in the next three years and will hit 80 million MT in 2017.

Source: The Standard