TRADE Secretary Ramon M. Lopez disputed the auto industry’s claims of potential job losses caused by safeguard duties on car imports, countering that the duties are designed to protect manufacturing jobs rather than those of importers.
The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI), following a pandemic-driven 41.6% sales drop as of November, said that duties would impede the sector’s recovery and pose a risk to employment in the industry.
Mr. Lopez in a mobile message to reporters on Wednesday said that CAMPI’s concern is based on the impact on import-based businesses rather than domestic manufacturers.
“Consumers have the option, and the dealers can now sell more of the locally made vehicles such as Toyota Vios and Innova and Mitsubishi Mirage and L300, the prices of which are not changing and therefore will be more attractive,” he said.
The Trade department imposed provisional safeguard duties on imported cars after an investigation found that a surge in imports hurt domestic manufacturers. The investigation was launched in response to an application from the Philippine Metalworkers Association (PMA), which linked the import surge to a decline in industry jobs.
Mr. Lopez said that it supported PMA’s petition after the investigation proved injury to the industry. Domestic vehicle and parts manufacturing jobs, he said, fell to 86,000 from close to 100,000 previously.
The department found that imported completely built cars rose to 274,847 last year from 88,013 in 2010.
“Safeguard duty is definitely meant to help and boost local manufacturing revival efforts and meant to protect local jobs in the manufacturing of cars and light commercial vehicles,” Mr. Lopez said.
“If we don’t impose this safeguard, after finding injury to local industry, then we are risking the remaining jobs of the Filipino workers,” he added.
PMA affiliate Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa said that the measure will protect jobs, especially after more than a thousand car industry workers were laid off last year.
“Considering that due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Philippine economy is the worst hit in Asia if not the world, protection of Filipino jobs is vital and cannot be overemphasized,” it said in a statement.
The Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. said it does not believe import duties will attract investments and create more jobs in the Philippines, or improve manufacturing competitiveness in the region.
In effect for 200 days, the duties will take the form of cash bonds of P70,000 per passenger car and P110,000 per light commercial vehicle. The case will be sent to the Tariff Commission, which will conduct its own investigation and public hearings. — Jenina P. Ibañez