AUTO WORKERS who sought safeguard duties on car imports asserted their standing to file such a petition after being queried about whether they actually represent the industry.

The Trade department imposed provisional duties on car imports after investigating an application from the Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA), which claimed a decline in domestic employment after a surge in imports.

As the Tariff Commission conducts its own investigation, lawyers representing auto companies and industry groups affected by the duties questioned the labor group’s standing to seek such a petition. Domestic manufacturers oppose the duties.

PMA said it is a legitimate stakeholder in the auto industry because it represents workers whose job security was affected by disruptions in the production process.

“We find it ironic that PMA, which is trying to contribute to the survival of the industry is being accused by the management of not representing the industry,” PMA President Ruel Punzalan said in a statement Wednesday.

PMA said that manufacturers’ management and lawyers have dismissed the concerns of their workers, after the Trade department released a finding that the number of workers in the industry had declined. PMA added that the duties on imported cars would make domestically-assembled vehicles more competitive, and that the domestic industry depends on Philippine metal products.

“Protecting the domestic auto manufacturing sector is necessary because of its forward and backward linkages with other sectors, (with) the capacity to generate more jobs,” Mr. Punzalan said.

PMA cited duties imposed by the US in 2009 on imported light truck tires from China, triggered by a petition filed by a labor union.

“Other unions have made similar petitions to support their respective industries, and the government, seeing the merit, has supported them,” PMA said.

Manufacturers opposing the duties have assembly operations in the Philippines, and also import from overseas.

The Safeguard Measures Act or Republic Act No. 8800 allows domestic producers to ask the government to conduct an investigation into their import competitors if they claim to have been injured by excessive imports. — Jenina P. Ibañez