Auto safeguard petitioners are legitimate

Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - February 25, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA) has stressed it is a legitimate stakeholder in the automobile industry in response to questions raised by lawyers of automotive firms on its legal personality and the validity of its petition for safeguard measures on vehicle imports.

“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,” PMA president Ruel Punzalan said in a  statement.

The statement comes after lawyers representing China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products, and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. questioned whether the PMA could represent the local automotive industry and file a petition for safeguard measures for imported vehicles.

The Department of Trade and Industry imposed a provisional safeguard measure in the form of a cash bond amounting to P70,000 per unit of an imported passenger car and P110,000 for every imported light commercial vehicle unit as it found higher vehicle imports are causing serious injury to the domestic motor vehicle manufacturing industry based on its preliminary investigation of a petition filed by PMA.

PMA said its petition and the government’s positive response is not unique and has precedence, which shows workers are stakeholders to the industry where they belong.

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

PMA cited US-based United Steelworkers which filed a complaint in 2010 against China on its tight control of rare earths and tungsten affecting the US alternative and renewable energy sector and the defense sector.

The global trade case was brought by then president Barack Obama in March 2012 and was later joined by the European Union and Japan to the WTO and a decision against China was announced two years later.

PMA also cited additional duties imposed by the US on certain passenger vehicle and light truck tires from China in 2009 to address the market disruption caused by the imports following a petition filed by the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers Union.

Punzalan said the unrestrained importation of vehicles has affected workers, leading to loss of employment, and for automotive firms to be forced to import vehicles.

Given this situation, he said the PMA would want to protect the local vehicle manufacturing industry.

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

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