ISUZU Philippines Corp. (IPC) is seeking to meet with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is evaluating a petition seeking the imposition of safeguard duty on imported vehicles.

IPC President Hajime Koso said on Tuesday the IPC’s imports will be affected by safeguard measures, but has yet to evaluate the possible impact on operations.

“We have to start discussion with government very carefully,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a company event.

Around sixty percent of Isuzu vehicles sold in the Philippines, he said, are imported. Most come from Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan.

In its petition filed with the DTI, the Philippine Metalworkers Alliance cited a causal link between automotive import growth and the decline in Philippine employment in the automotive industry.

On Tuesday, IPC launched its newest lightweight truck Isuzu Travis, which covers the “last mile” delivery items of retail stores and door-to-door deliveries.

Mr. Koso said that IPC currently has no plans to assemble this vehicle in the Philippines.

Asked if IPC would consider increasing its automotive production in the Philippines, he said the company may do so if offered incentives and a long-term parts localization plan.

“The cost comparison is higher,” Mr. Koso said. “In the future, if our government supports something, we have the potential to assemble this vehicle with this country,” noting the draw of incentives such as tax breaks.

“If we decide to assemble the vehicle here, we need the support of parts suppliers,” he added.

He used Thailand’s automotive industry growth as an example for further localization.

“I would like to ask [the Philippine] government to make sure [there is a] long term strategy in terms of localization program. In Thailand, they are very successful in the automotive industry… when the Thai government decided to assemble the one-ton pickup truck,” Mr. Koso said.

“Government gave manufacturing a very big benefit — not only Isuzu — most pickup manufacturers transferred from Japan or other countries to Thailand. And then pickup manufacturing business went up.”

IPC currently has trucks assembly production of light and medium-duty trucks in the Philippines. The company had discontinued local production of the D-Max, cutting around 70 jobs temporarily. The Philippines imports the vehicle from Thailand.

IPC now has 600 employees in total, Mr. Koso estimates, from around 700 five years prior. — Jenina P. Ibañez