The 2017 ASEAN Iron and Steel Sustainability Forum, held at Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Manila, Philippines on 28 and 29 November 2017, attracted around 220 delegates from 15 countries. This was a record turnout for the year-end event of the Institute since it was first organised in 2008.
The keynote speech was delivered by Mr. Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines. In his address, Mr. Lopez alluded to the strong performance of the Philippine economy which expanded 6.9% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2017, with the manufacturing sector registering a robust growth rate of 9.4% in the same period. He then highlighted the government’s Build, Build, Build Programme, which is aimed at catching up on Philippines’ infrastructure development with strong funding support from the government. In this connection, Mr. Lopez pointed out the importance of the iron and steel industry in Philippines’s economy and the government’s effort in pushing for the revitalisation of the industry. He mentioned that under the Philippine Iron and Steel Industry Roadmap, the government envisages that annual steel consumption in the Philippines will reach 20 million tonnes by 2030 with 70% of the demand met through domestic production. He also announced that the Department of Trade and Industry is undertaking a supply chain analysis of both long and flat steel products.
In the session on “Steel Market Developments”, I provided an update on the steel industry situation in ASEAN. Total apparent steel consumption in ASEAN-6 retreated 6.1% year-on-year to 36 million tonnes in the first half of 2017, mainly attributable to the slowing down of steel demand in the two biggest steel consuming countries in the region i.e. Vietnam and Thailand. Vietnam’s steel consumption suffered a 10.9 % year-on-year drop due to the slower than expected GDP growth rate in the first six months of the year, the slow uptake in public investment projects and the tightening of supply of construction sand and the resultant rising prices which affected construction activities in the country. In the case of Thailand, its sharp drop in steel consumption (-15.9% year-on-year) was mainly the result of destocking activities following the aggressive accumulation of stocks by stockists in 2016 in response to the rising steel prices then. For the second half of 2017, the situation in Thailand and Vietnam is expected to return to normal. The Vietnam Steel Association (VSA), in particular, is expecting a strong recovery in Vietnam’s steel consumption. With that, and also the expected continued expansion of steel demand in Indonesia and Philippines, ASEAN-6 is expected to still be able to register a positive growth rate in total steel consumption for the whole of 2017.
The next presenter was Dr. Maria Catalina Cabral from the Department of Public Works and Highways of Philippines, the principal agency responsible for the implementation of the Build, Build, Build Programme. Described as the “Golden Age of Infrastructure”, the programme will see a total outlay of between US$160 to US$180 billion over the period 2017 to 2022. In her presentation, Dr. Cabral touched on the major strategic infrastructure programmes and policies including Traffic Decongestion Programme, Integrated and Seamless Transport System, Convergence and Rural Road Development Programme and Livable, Sustainable and Resilient Communities. She also highlighted some of the major regional infrastructure development projects under the programme.
The following two presenters viz. Ms. Charlotte Rao of Platts and Ms. Jessica Zong of Metal Bulletin both delved into Chinese steel prices and exports and their impact on regional markets. The general picture was that the high profit and good demand in China’s domestic market has pushed down Chinese steel mills’ export interest. As a result, non-Chinese steels, from India, Turkey, Russia and Brazil etc., are re-entering the South-east Asian market after more than five years of absence. Going forward, Ms Rao of Platts was of the view that Chinese domestic steel prices will remain attractive with Chinese mills allocating more to domestic market and less to exports. On the other hand, Ms. Zong of Metal Bulletin expected Chinese steel exports to increase in the coming year on the outlook of high production and less policy/regulation-driven price rise.
In line with the focus on the construction sector, the biggest steel consuming sector in ASEAN, the rest of the sessions in the Forum were devoted to construction and construction related subjects. To kick-start the sessions, representatives of the six ASEAN member countries of SEAISI each made a presentation of the situation of the steel construction sector in their respective countries.
This was followed by the sessions on “Steel Structures: Standard, Development and Applications”; “Steel Applications for Sustainable Building and Infrastructure”; and “Green Solutions using Steel Materials”. A total of 12 informative papers were presented by speakers from Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam in the three sessions mentioned. In each of the sessions, there was active participation from the floor with many delegates seeking clarification and further information from the speakers on specific areas of interest.
The site tour after the forum attracted some 40 participants who were taken to visit the facilities of Steel Centre Philippines, Inc., a specialist in steel fabrication and erection as well as a leader in custom-made steel structures in the Philippines.
All in all, the Forum was a resounding success. The Institute would like to thank the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) for its tremendous support and cooperation in co-hosting this year’s event in Manila, Philippines. Our thanks also go to all the speakers, chairpersons, delegates and the host of the site tour for your great support and participation.
TAN AH YONG