THE Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Sunday said it is ready to provide aid to workers who will be displaced from the looming closure of the Laguna-based plant of Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI).
The Japanese carmaker announced at the weekend it will shut down by March the factory, which has operated since 1992, as part of its efforts to provide “reasonably priced and good quality products.”
In a SMS, Labor assistant secretary officer-in-charge Dominique R. Tutay told BusinessMirror the workers who may be affected by the closure are highly skilled and are therefore in demand.
“If they will go to DOLE, by all means we will assist them. Since they are highly skilled workers, maybe we could provide them employment facilitation services,” Tutay said.
In its JobsFit 2022 report, DOLE said the manufacturing sector is the fourth projected key employment generator from for 2017 to 2022.
Labor undersecretary officer-in-charge Benjo Benavidez told BusinessMirror their regional office in Laguna is already looking at the number of workers who may be affected by the closure.
He said they may release the details once they get the complete report from DOLE Laguna Provincial Office director Guido R. Recio.
Labor advocate group Defend Jobs Philippines said a total of 387 workers are expected to be retrenched and be “generously compensated” by Honda from its plant closure at the Laguna Techno park .
Philippine Metal Workers Alliance (PMA-Sentro) president Ruel Punzalan said they are closely monitoring the recent development since it could affect their appeal to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to impose safeguard duties against imported cars.
“Based from the information, which I heard so far, it [HCPI] has yet to file any report or information [of the closure] to DOLE . . . They just made an announcement at plant, which surprised the people working there,” Punzalan told BusinessMirror in a phone interview.
He said they are now verifying this information by coordinating with the labor union of HCPI.
Punzalan said the case could support their cause to discourage foreign car manufacturers to cater to local demand of their products through importation instead of producing the units within the country.
PMA said this was proven by the shrinking work force in the car manufacturing sector since 2015.
Punzalan said DTI already replied to their appeal through a letter stating that their appeal for safeguard measures has basis.
“We are now just waiting for further feedback from them if they will be holding a hearing or they summon the employers from the automobile industry [to discuss the issue],” Punzalan said.
Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson Thadeus Ifurung called on DOLE to probe the matter to ensure workers were not shortchanged by HCPI’s move.
“They said that the Labor department must lead the investigation on the legitimacy of the grounds and basis of the announced closure of HCPI immediately for the purpose of saving the jobs and livelihoods of our local workforce,” Ifurung said in a statement.
He said DOLE should also check the impact of the closure on the 60 other companies supplying parts and materials to HCPI’s Laguna factory.
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said the closure may be linked to the uncertainty of the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (Citira), which is currently pending Congress.
“With Citira set for passage this April we will see a larger repeat of the Honda case with locators threatening to transfer their operations to other Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) countries should Citira remove their current tax privileges,” TUCP President Raymond Mendoza said.
Mendoza urged the Department of Finance (DOF) “to not rush heedlessly full steam ahead on Citira since it could trigger the departure of more foreign firms.”
It should, he added, “step back and consult with stakeholders and do due diligence economic simulations.”
Partido Manggagawa (PM) chairman Renato Magtubo said the recent development should also compel the government to review the status of all factories operating within its economic zones.
“Maybe it’s about time that the government assess its foreign investors especially those that enjoy incentives if they are still worthy to become partners for the country’s growth and development,” Magtubo said.
In a radio interview, Presidential spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said they do not expect the closure of HCPI plant to have a big impact on the local economy.
He is also confident the government’s massive infrastructure projects under its Build Build Build program will open up alternative employment opportunities for displaced HCPI workers.