Labor group calls for review of car dev’t program, safeguards not enough

Published January 22, 2021, 5:28 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

MB file photo

The Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA-SENTRO) has called for a review of the automotive industry development plan stating the imposition of the safeguard measure is not enough to save the domestic automotive industry and stop car companies’ exodus from the Philippines.

PMA believes that imposing the safeguard measures would not be enough to save the automotive industry. The Department of Trade and Industry has imposed a punitive duty of P70,000 per unit of imported completely built up (CBU) passenger cars and P110,000 per unit of imported CBU light commercial vehicles to protect domestic auto manufacturing and save jobs from the onslaught of imports.

“There is clearly a need to address the cost of doing business, particularly the exorbitant cost of power that hamstrung local production of automobiles as well as the need to improve infrastructure to lower cost of transportation to link production centers to ports and its supply chains, “PMA said.

The labor group issued this statement following the closure of the Nissan car assembly plant in Laguna, which led the displacement of 133 workers. Nissan is the latest episode in a series of company closures that made the issuance of a safeguard measure absolutely necessary.

“Government should ensure that this will be the last closure,” Ruel Punzalan, President of PMA, said. “This is why it is high time for the government to revisit its automotive development program,” he added.

PMA said that pouring billions of tax-payers money to support the industry while leaving its development direction to the hands of transnational corporations alone would only consign the country’s productive capacities to the minor role in their global plans.

The PMA was referring to the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program that dangles tax and fiscal incentives for companies to assemble their car models in the country. “What we now need is to gear the industry towards producing what the country needs for its own development, such as re-fleeting our public transportation,” Punzalan said.

The 3rd tranche of the CARS Program, which was earmarked for the production of eco-PUVs, would have been a step towards the right direction. Unfortunately, the program seems to have been put on hold. PMA is calling for a high level tripartite discussion among industry players – employers, workers and the government – to discuss how to save an ailing industry. This is part and parcel of realizing its constitutional mandate to promote local industries and their workers.

“If the automotive industry is the lynchpin of our industrial development, then the government must step in to save it,” Punzalan said.