Workers tell auto importers: We are legitimate industry stakeholder

Published February 24, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA), a workers’ union comprised of thousands of workers from the steel, metal and electronics industries, yesterday stressed that workers in the automotive industry are legitimate stakeholders in the automobile industry as they represent workers and their families who are more vulnerable to any disruption in the production process.

PMA issued this statement after their authority to represent the industry was questioned during the preliminary conference of the Tariff Commission on the provisional safeguard duty imposed by the Department of Trade and Industry on imported cars and light commercial vehicles following the workers’ petition alleging serious injury to the industry and loss of jobs.

“We find it ironic that PMA, which is trying to contribute to the survival of the industry is being accused by the management of not representing the industry,” said PMA President Ruel Punzalan.

“Meanwhile, the management, their associations, and their lawyers are conniving to cause the dismissal of Filipino workers,” Punzalan said in a statement. 

The workers pointed out that initial investigation by the DTI revealed a decline in auto workers by 100,000 previously and recently, by 86,000 jobs because of the influx of CBU importation.

“To stench the employment bleed and acting on the workers’ petition, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez announced provisional safeguard duty in the form of a cash bond, with amount depending on the type of vehicles being brought in,” the group said.

 Both the government and the automobile union wish to create a more competitive environment for locally-made vehicles that use Philippine metal products by imposing a penalty on vehicle distributors for every vehicle imported.

The Chamber of Automobile Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID) however immediately expressed displeasure over the protective measure.

And now, the country’s top law firms representing automobile companies have joined forces against the PMA, challenging its legal personality within the industry.

According to Punzalan, the impact of unrestrained importation of CBU has affected workers through the loss of their employment, and the automobile companies, who are being forced by their parent foreign companies to import their products.

The group is strongly arguing to protect the local automobile industry.

“Protecting domestic auto manufacturing sector is necessary because of its forward and backward linkages with other sectors, and hence, the capacity to generate more jobs,” Punzalan explained.

The group is also appealing to the country’s top law firms to broaden their legal horizon for the sake of the country’s fledgling car industry.

PMA also said that its petition and corresponding positive response is not unique and has precedence, proving that workers are morally and legally are actual stakeholders to the industry they belong.

“Other unions have made similar petition to support their respective industries, and the government seeing the merit, has supported them,” the PMA said.