• Finding the common ground

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    E3---Rommel-Gutierrez-20160301Rommel Gutierrez has one of the most unusual business cards in the car industry.

    Although other executives also have two-sided cards – with one side showing his or her job title and contact details and the other side showing a description of his or her company – Gutierrez’s card shows him working for two completely different companies. This is because aside from being Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation’s first vice president for government and industry affairs, he is also the president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI), which is currently composed of 14 car brands.

    “You have to find the common interest among the members and come up with a common solution,” he said of his latter position. “It’s not easy to have a common ground. But it’s fortunate that I’m with Toyota so, more or less, being the industry leader, we could come up with a solution to all the common problems.”

    Helping bolster his credibility in both his jobs are his credentials – Gutierrez is a Certified Public Account and lawyer, finishing accounting at Ateneo de Zamboanga then finishing law at Arellano University. He said he started with Toyota right after passing the bar examinations in 2002, initially as part of the company export department. Meanwhile, he said he started his involvement with CAMPI in 2005 and became the group’s president in 2013.

    What CAMPI does
    “CAMPI is the most reputable automotive association in the Philippines,” he said. “It is a socially responsible industry association working in partnership with the Philippine government and other stakeholders. Our main objective is to promote the interest of the auto industry, carried out through participation, among others, in the formulation of government policies, programs, regulations and standards for the auto industry.”

    CAMPI’s website lists five main advocacies: enhancement of industry competitiveness; skills enhancement; environment protection; consumer protection; and corporate social responsibility. Gutierrez said the organization was instrumental in passing important motor-industry laws like Executive Order 156, which former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed in 2002 that banned the importation of used cars.

    “Even the issues that the Land Transportation Office [LTO] is experiencing right now – the difficulty in obtaining license plates and the slow processing of documentation – we have been assisting in coming up with regulations for the auto industry,” he said. “And even before the LTO announced in May last year that they would strictly implement the ‘no-plate, no-travel’ policy, we were already discussing with them on how the transition should take place. We provided data and other information relevant to the implementation of that policy.”

    Optimistic outlook
    Gutierrez said the steady entry of new car brands and models into the Philippines signifies continued momentum in the country’s “motorization stage,” which he said can be attributed to higher incomes as a result of sustained economic growth, along with greater ease in getting a car.

    “Buying a car has become easy and convenient through more affordable financing packages,” he said. “You can see financing companies now offering low rates, low down-payment and easy-to-pay schemes. And we are optimistic that we can maintain the momentum of increasing growth, especially with gross domestic product per capita reaching more than $2,500.”

    Gutierrez also said the Philippine car industry is expected to produce half a million units by 2020, which is over a third more than the approximately 320,000 units sold in 2015. He said contributing to this target is the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program that President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed last year, which will provide P27 billion in incentives to help three carmakers produce at least 600,000 units over the next six years.

    “CARS Program is very important to the auto industry, especially to the manufacturing sector, because it defines and sets in motion a clear policy direction of the government as far as the auto industry is concerned,” he said. “This would really entail large investments, especially on the parts- and components-manufacturing companies, thus increasing the capacity of our local suppliers and encouraging more investments to come in.”

    Gutierrez also said the program could also lead to more affordable cars.

    “With that volume, we expect to have an economies of scale,” he said. “Once you have that, parts and components will become cheaper, which will have an impact on the production of the vehicles under the program.”

    More roads, safer drivers
    Understanding that flooding the Philippines with more affordable cars could lead to greater road congestion, more road crashes and increased pollution, Gutierrez said CAMPI has also been working closely with the government to formulate policies to address these issues.

    “We, of course, encourage government to build more infrastructure because we have been telling them that sales of cars have been increasing and that we can see more cars coming in in the coming years,” he said.

    One of the policies that CAMPI helped formulate is the Euro4 fuel and emission standards, which came into full effect this year. These require all fuels sold in the country to have a maximum of 50 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur and 35 percent of aromatics, while unleaded gasoline may only have up to 1 percent of benzene (down from a maximum of 500 ppm of sulphur, 5 percent of benzene and no limit on aromatics mandated by the previous Euro2 standards). Gutierrez said stricter fuel and emission standards like Euro6 in Europe could be implemented locally in the future.

    “It’s really a matter of time. We have to progress to that stage,” he said. “But again, timing is very important. We have to look at the production and introduction timing of new models. We really need coordination with our principals on what models to introduce.”

    Gutierrez also said CAMPI is working with several advocacy groups and the media to promote road safety in the Philippines. The country is a signatory in the World Health Organization Decade of Action in Road Safety, which aims to save five million lives globally by 2020.

    “I think this a very important thing,” he said. “One of the causes of traffic is actually crashes, along with how motorists drive their cars. We partnered with a media group to start school-based education programs on road safety, especially for the high-school level.”

    In addition, Gutierrez said CAMPI will host this year’s Philippine International Motor Show in September. “As early as now, we would like to invite you to be part of it and it’s going to be yet another exciting event not only for CAMPI, but also for the motoring public,” he said.

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