THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it is working to release within the year an incentive package that will encourage hybrid and electric car manufacturers to set up assembly plants here.

“For (those who import), we’re looking at removal or reduction of tariffs, pero kung i-ma-manufacture (if they manufacture) here, we’re looking at much higher incentives. These are still being formulated,” Undersecretary for the DTI’s Competitiveness and Innovation Group Rafaelita M. Aldaba told reporters on the sidelines of the Toyota Hybrid Electrification forum on Wednesday.

The fiscal incentive program being drafted will follow the pattern of the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program with incentives given depending on the production volume and investment committed by the companies as well as other conditions, she said.

Asked about the tariff adjustments, Ms. Aldaba said: “If you have manufacturing ambitions, you will get a better incentive. Siguro (maybe) zero for those who commit to manufacture, then reduced rates for those who will import.”

The DTI may also allow program participants to import vehicles for the first two or three years while the industry, with government support, establishes a market for the product.

She said the incentive package will be an inter-agency effort with the Departments of Transportation, Environment and Natural Resources, Energy and Science and Technology.

The proposed strategy will be comprehensive and include industry development goals, regulations, information, and education especially on the environmental benefits of hybrid and e-vehicles, according to Ms. Aldaba.

Ms. Aldaba said having a manufacturing base for electric and hybrid cars is “very feasible”, considering that the country has the metal resources such as nickel and cobalt to produce the batteries for these cars.

At yesterday’s news conference, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) Corp. President Satoru Suzuki said the company’s Prius model as currently imported is “expensive” at P2.2 million.

Nico Bravante, TMP’s vice-president for product planning, said that without the 30% import tariff the Japan-made Prius can sell for as little as P1.6 million.

TMP Senior Vice President for Marketing Jose Maria M. Atienza said the company has sold around 481 hybrid cars, including the Prius and other models from its Lexus brand since 2009.

In 2018, Toyota sold 105 hybrids in the Philippines, up 16.67%.

Mr. Atienza expects hybrid sales to be little changed this year, noting that the priority for the company is to build a market for e-vehicles.

“Our goal now is how to expand it with current activities like this, including working with the government for incentives and looking at launching models. We need more models for affordability. Affordability is very important,” Mr. Atienza told BusinessWorld. — Janina C. Lim