Senate labor committee ready to probe Honda hub shutdown
Franco Luna ( - February 25, 2020 - 6:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources is standing ready to conduct hearings on the looming shutdown of the manufacturing plant of Honda Cars Philippines Inc. 

“The pending closure of the nearly three-decade-old Honda Cars manufacturing plant in Sta. Rosa Laguna is a cause of concern,” Senator Joel Villanueva, committee chair, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Not only will 387 jobs be on the line, it will also affect at least 387 families and hundreds more if we factor in indirect jobs and trade activity that support the factory and its workers,” he added.

Over the weekend, Honda announced it is closing its manufacturing hub next month, leaving only its marketing division here in the latest on a string of downsizing among multinational companies operating in the Philippines.

In January, mobile phone maker Nokia announced it is shutting down its local research and development office at the UP-Ayala Technohub in Quezon City, resulting in around 700 people getting jobless. A few weeks after that, Bloomberg reported US-based bank Wells Fargo & Co. said it was laying off around a similar number of Filipino tech workers from their operations in the country.

As far as Honda is concerned, the company currently employs “approximately 650 associates,” according to information found on its website. Senator Villanueva’s office told the 387 jobs estimated to be lost with the car manufacturing shutdown was based from Labor department figures.

“We call on the Labor and Trade departments to exert all effort to save jobs that are here in the country and respond to the immediate needs of displaced workers and their families,” Villanueva said.

In contrast to Villanueva’s concern however, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) blasted Malacanang for supposedly downplaying the Honda plant shutdown after spokesperson Salvador Panelo had said the government’s delayed “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program can absorb displaced workers.

President Duterte himself have repeatedly blamed labor shortage as one of the reasons for delays hitting his trillion-peso infrastructure agenda. This is despite government data showing the share of construction jobs, which have direct relation to the building program, rose to a tenth of the labor force as of January 2019 from 5.6% in end-2010.

That said, much of the infrastructure projects had been struggling on the construction phase, while analysts have said a preference for Chinese funding in some projects also meant prioritizing Chinese workers, leaving less opportunities for Filipinos.

DOLE probe urged, too

“Ang pagmamaliit ni Panelo sa biglang pagkawala ng trabaho ng 700 manggagawa ay malaking insulto sa bawat manggagawang Pilipino na nagpapagal araw-araw para marangal na buhayin ang kanyang pamilya,” said KMU secretary-general Jerome Adonis.

(Panelo’s belittling of 700 workers losing jobs due to Honda’s closure is a big insult to the Filipino worker who strives everyday to work decently for their families).

Meanwhile, apart from the Senate labor committee, labor group Defend Jobs Philippines said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) must also conduct its own investigation on the Honda plant closure. 

“Hanggat nakaasa tayo sa dayuhang pamumuhunan at walang sariling programa sa pagtataguyod ng industriya, hindi tataas ang empleyo sa bansa, at laging walang kasiguraduhan sa trabaho ang mga Pilipino,” Adonis said.

(For as long as we are reliant on foreign investors, with no program to develop our local industries, Filipinos will not be assured of jobs).

READ: Workers' group calls for Labor department to look into Honda plant closure

“Dapat mabilis na aksyonan ng gobyerno sa sitwasyong ito: malalimang alamin ang naging dahilan at proseso ng biglaang pagsasara, itulak ang anumang pananagutan ng kompanya ng Honda sa batas ng bansa At sa mga manggagawa’t, at tiyakin ang kabuhayan ng 700 manggagawa’t kanilang mga pamilya.”

(The government should move fast to investigate the reasons behind the abrupt closure of the plant and make Honda accountable to its workers, all while ensuring that the 700 people at risk of getting unemployed keep their jobs).

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