SAY you want to buy a pair of branded jeans.Go into any shopping mall and you’ll find a dizzying array of shops fighting for your attention and, consequently, the cash in your wallet (and that’s without entering the department store yet). These stores have a seemingly innocuous similarity – most are foreign brands.
Some credit this to our nation’s over three centuries under colonial rule, where our fates were determined and our tastes made by people different from us, resulting in a fractured national identity that never fully gained an appreciation for our own products. Adding to this is an increasingly globalized economy, where importing things are often less expensive than developing our own manufacturing industries.
This hodgepodge of foreign goods (and the dearth of Filipino ones) seemingly runs counter to Article 12, Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution, which says the State will promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, materials and goods. The goal of this provision is to not only generate jobs locally, thus stemming the “brain drain” from Filipinos going overseas to work, but also to have a more robust economy in the long run.
This issue also exists in the local car market, where you can choose among Japanese, American, Korean and even Chinese brands, but you can’t buy a Filipino vehicle unless it’s made of shiny stainless steel and has “Sarao” stamped along its flanks. However, many of the world’s largest automakers today started out by building cars for their home markets, usually with great support from their governments.
Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) president Rommel Gutierrez said a similar approach through the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program could result in a wholly Pinoy car brand.
“It’s not impossible,” he said. “Once we have a strong domestic base and strong parts suppliers locally, I think we can have that. It’s really a matter of time.”
Gutierrez said the at least 600,000 units produced under the program – containing 90 to 95 percent Filipino content – will primarily be for the Philippine market. But he said once the foundation is set, the country could be selling cars “Proudly Made in the Republic of the Philippines” to all parts of the globe.
“Exports would come once we are ready,” he said. “But this time, we feel that we need to strengthen the domestic base first before we go into exports. This CARS Program is a good start.”
As Fast Times found out in its interview with Philippine Parts Makers Association Vice President for Technical Edmund Araga, the Philippines has a fledgling electric-vehicle industry, with a handful of companies manufacturing everything from electric bikes to electric buses. Gutierrez said CAMPI would certainly welcome these companies under its roof.
“That’s part of our advocacy: to have cleaner vehicles and a cleaner environment,” he said. “And we really welcome this move of locally producing electric vehicles. That’s the ultimate goal – to have our own eco-car.”