Plywood floods infra-hungry PH, but is it safe?

Inquire– The volume of imported plywood grew nearly four times since the government stopped requiring quality checks for the building material in 2015, prompting the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to consider taking extra precaution.

The DTI said Wednesday it could require the quality checks of imported plywood. The agency said it would do so through a department order that would put plywood back on the list of products under mandatory certification.

Imported plywood was among those delisted by the DTI in July 2015 to hasten its release to the market, leaving only those considered to be life-threatening on the list of imported products that needed certification.

In 2015, then Trade Undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba said the backlog for one product category alone was about three months. If the products have not been scrapped from the list, the importers would have only suffered further.

The volume of imported plywood from January to June 2015 was only 8,624 metric tons valued at $4.5 million, the DTI said, citing data from the Bureau of Philippine Standards.

This grew nearly 280 percent to 32,768 MT in the same six-month period in 2019, valued at around $12.75 million.

Since the product was removed from the list in July 2015 up to June this year, the total volume of imported plywood had reached 194,826 MT, worth $75.58 million.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement on Wednesday that substandard plywood was a threat to both public safety and local manufacturing.

“We saw the numbers in plywood. In a three-year period since plywood was removed from the list in 2015, imports have rapidly increased and these are not tested for standard compliance. It’s good if these products comply with the standards,” he said.

Lopez noted local manufacturers might be forced to sell at a loss or stop operations since substandard plywood could be sold at a very low price.

This, Lopez said, might shrink the country’s manufacturing base and widen the trade deficit.

If the DTI does put plywood back on the list, this would mark another development in the agency’s efforts to put more imported products under the government’s close scrutiny.

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