Benjamin Yao, the chairman and chief executive of SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp., believes that a strong local steel industry will enable the Philippines to catch up with its industrial neighbors.

SteelAsia chairman and CEO Benjamin Yao receives the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines trophy at the awards banquet in Makati City.“The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country that does not produce its steel requirements,” Yao says in a recent meeting with business editors in Makati City.

This is expected to be corrected soon as SteelAsia diversifies its production from reinforcing bars or construction steel to steel beams for bridges, sheet piles for ports, heavy angles for transmission towers and wire-rod for machine parts. 

SteelAsia operates six community mills around the Philippines and is building more to support the large rebar requirements of the construction and real estate industries.  Data show that the Philippine steel consumption posted a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent between 2006 and 2018.

Behind the growth of SteelAsia is Yao who believes that steel is the mother of all manufacturing that creates jobs and lifts the whole economy.  He says steel has played a crucial role in the industrialization of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China. 

Speaking at the 1st Philippine Industrial Summit in Mindanao on Nov. 27, 2019, Yao says per capita steel consumption in the Philippines is now near the industrial inflection point of 100 kilograms. “We are at a moment in time where a decision to act or not will mean a big difference for our country,” he says.

SteelAsia, on Sept. 1, 2019, signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s HBIS Group Limited for the first integrated iron and steel facility in Batangas province to elevate the domestic steel industry and reduce dependence on imports.

Yao says the Philippines imports about 800,000 tons of wire-rod per year and doesn’t produce a single ton.  “With domestic wire-rod manufacturing, many SMEs can develop using wire-rods as a raw material.  Products like nuts and bolts, screws, wire and nails, steel cables, welding rods, machine parts, mesh, everyday items and more can be manufactured in the Philippines,” he says.  “Wire-rod is a mother product for many industries that local businessmen or entrepreneurs can benefit from.”

SteelAsia is in the process of establishing three wire-rod mills in Concepcion, Tarlac; Candelaria, Quezon; and Kirahon, Misamis Oriental.  “Wire-rod is a mother product for many industries that local businessmen or entrepreneurs can benefit from,” says Yao.

For his unparalleled role in the resurgence of the steel industry, Yao was named recently as the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines and will represent the country in the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2020.