The labor department on Thursday, Jan. 7, said it is supporting the imposition of a safeguard duty on imported passenger and light vehicles to protect workers in the automotive industry.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the significant measure will “protect workers and improve the labor market condition in the industry battered not just by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the influx of imported vehicles.”
He cited data from the Labor Force Survey showing employment in the automotive sector declined from a high of 109,000 in 2016 to 93,000 in 2019 despite the growth of the automotive market driven by high domestic consumption.
As a labor-intensive industry, he said, the potential for employment opportunities in the industry is significant.
Bello added this has been one of the considerations for pushing the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS), and among the factors for identifying the industry as one of the Key Employment Generators under the manufacturing industry in the DOLE JobsFit 2022.
This potential was reversed by massive importation over the years, he said.
“The convenience of importing vehicles in contrast to manufacturing the same in the country jeopardized the potential of the industry to contribute more in the labor market,” Bello said.
The labor chief is hoping that the imposition of a Safeguard Duty will encourage industry players to “focus more on investing and developing the domestic market, including our human resources.”
“This is a significant step as the government pursues its recovery efforts by focusing on manufacturing resurgence and upgrading of workforce,” Bello said.
Labor group Sentro also welcomed the safeguard measures.
The group said the provisional measure will protect the local industry that has been reeling from the surge in imported vehicles in the past couple of years, which has caused the loss of jobs for thousands of Filipino workers and threatens the employment of many others.
“Considering that due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Philippine economy is the worst hit in Asia if not the world, the protection of Filipino jobs is vital and cannot be overemphasized,” said Sentro.
Sentro then congratulated its affiliate, Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA), for successfully convincing DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez to issue the provisional safeguard duties to protect the Philippine auto industry and its workers.
Secretary Lopez earlier imposed additional tariffs in the form of a cash bond amounting to P70,000/unit for imported passenger cars and P110,000/unit imported for light commercial vehicles.