Gov’t urged to pursue electric vehicles

Published January 25, 2021, 6:30 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Alarmed by the spate of car manufacturing plants closures in the country, automotive parts manufacturers are strongly recommending to the government to make a solid support for the electric vehicle (EV) sector and the jeepney modernization program in the country. 

Ferdinand Raquelsantos, chairman of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP), stressed that EV manufacturing is a good option for the Philippines for its own supply and for potential exports. 

“Jeepney modernization and electric vehicles would be able to replace the lost completely knocked down operations of giant car firms in the country,” said Raquelsantos, who pointed out that car assembly in the Philippines cannot really be competitive because of the lack of economies of scale or no volume. The jeepney modernization program, however, is seen to be losing momentum.  

Thus, EVAP is looking forward to the Senate Bill 1382 or the Electric Vehicles and Charging Station Act of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. The EV sector has been asking for government support the past 14 years while Gatchalian’s bill has been pending at the bicameral level for 6 years already.

The bill seeks to require private and public buildings and establishments to have dedicated parking slots with charging stations, installed by charging station service providers, and for gasoline stations to have a dedicated space for charging stations as well. It also mandates large industrial and commercial companies, public transport operators, and government agencies and instrumentalities to adopt a minimum 5 percent share of EVs within their respective fleets.

“We had a head start, we had E-Jeep in 2007,” Raquelsantos said adding there is also the potential of exporting EVs at zero duty to ASEAN countries instead of the region importing from China. He noted that Vietnam imports EVs from China.

“This is the time really to pursue EVs otherwise we will be left behind again,” he urged adding that demand for traditional internal combustion engine vehicle is also going down in the long term.

He also expressed confidence of foreign investors in the EVs as long as government grants attractive incentive package and a competitive business environment. In fact, Raquelsantos, who also owns PHUV Inc., said he can partner with foreign investor for the assembly of EVs.

“There are several investors including parts manufacturers and distributors, but everybody is waiting for the passage of the EV bill,” he said.

He noted that 20 percent of EV firms in the country have remained closed although the body builders are still operational as they assemble from imported chassis. His own PHUV company had shutdown operations since March last year with workers being reallocated to his other businesses, including a solar venture.

The EV sector also reduced their workforce by 35 percent. Industry players also had been declining from 128 in 2015 to 65 in early 2020 while production is at 60 percent only of capacity.

Forecast for this year though is improving relative to 2020 although the prospect for recovery is still negative, he said.

“We hope to normalize this year,” said Raquelsantos.