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Mariwasa says 'substandard' tiles hurting industry, consumers
Release time:2014/04/16

BANGKOK, Thailand - A leading ceramic tile manufacturer in the Philippines is sounding alarm bells over cheap but substandard tiles, mostly made in China, that are flooding the market.
Surasak Kraiwitchaicharoen, Siam Cement Group (SCG) executive country director for the Philippines, expressed concern that these ceramic tiles have been allowed to enter the market without complying with Philippine quality standards. SGC is the parent company of Mariwasa Siam Ceramics Inc.

"Because the peso is strong, the importers have a chance to import a lot, especially from China... I'm not worried about the imports, but I just need a fair game. When they import something, they need to match the standards for the Philippines. Some imported products are substandard... At Mariwasa, we have the PS (Philippine standard) mark, we follow the Philippine standard, but some of the importers are taking advantage by not following Philippine standards," he told reporters on Sunday night.

Kraiwitchaicharoen said some of these imported tiles, which cost at least 20% cheaper than the locally made Mariwasa tiles, are a "waste of money" because of their low quality.

"Our tiles can last 10 years, but these tiles last only 1-2 years... There is also a safety issue. If the tiles are not good enough, they can easily break... And if they are installed, people can trip and become injured because of these (defective) tiles," he said.

"Consumer may enjoy (lower) prices but have to educate people that if they buy cheaper ones it will not last long."

The government, particularly the Bureau of Product Standards, should make sure these imported ceramic tiles pass the same strict quality standards that Mariwasa and other local ceramic tile manufacturers are subjected to, Kraiwitchaicharoen said.

"We are also trying to convince the BPS to have the testing and make sure imported products pass their standards," he said. The bureau, he observed, conducts strict testing at local tile manufacturing plants but do not apply the same scrutiny for tiles that are imported in the country.
Mariwasa Siam Ceramics, a subsidiary of Thai conglomerate SCG, operates a manufacturing plant in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. It has been in the Philippine market for over 4 decades, but entry of cheap imported tiles has severely affected its business in the country.

In 1993, Kraiwitchaicharoen recalled that Mariwasa dominated the ceramic tile market in the Philippines with 60% share. Now, its share is barely 30%. If this trend continues, he expressed concern about the Filipinos employed at the plant and other related industries.

As a result of the declining market share, as well as rising costs of fuel and slowing demand in the housing sector, Mariwasa sees at most, flat growth this year.

"This year is not as good as last year," said Kraiwitchaicharoen.

However, the company is hoping its energy costs will ease when its P400 million alternative fuel facility in Sto. Tomas is completed by mid-2014. The facility, which will make use of rice husk, will generate power for the ceramic tile manufacturing plant.

Kraiwitchaicharoen, who has spent nearly 10 years in the Philippines, will be leaving his post on October 1. He will be replaced by Anukul Kongrit as country director for SCG's Philippine operations.

Aside from Mariwasa Siam, SCG has six other companies in the Philippines, namely United Pulp & Paper Co. Inc.,  CPAC Monier Philippines, SCG Trading Philippines, Green Siam Resources Inc., Green Alternative Technology Specialist Inc. and SCG Marketing Inc.