Aquino showcases new CARS program to Japanese businessmen

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino IIIon Thursday, June 4, invited Japanese companies to take advantage of a recently-approved Philippine government program that is expected to jumpstart automotive manufacturing in the Philippines.

Speaking at a luncheon with Japanese association heads in Tokyo, Aquino, who is on a state visit to Japan,  announced that he has just approved  the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program, and urged Japanese firms to support it.

“It is our hope that, with your interest and support, we will be able to further empower this particular sector, as well as its related industries in our country,” said Aquino

The President said growing up, he saw the success of Japanese enterprises in the Philippines such as Toyota, which competed with big European and US brands.

He noted how the  Japanese carmaker broke into the Philippine market by offering a good deal to Philippine taxi companies, who operate 24/7.

“This is how our countrymen began to see how reliable, durable, and fuel-efficient Japanese cars are, which has led to their current dominance not just of the taxi but of the entire car industry,” he said.

He also praised Mitsubishi Motors – the first automobile manufacturer to reach 500,000 units of cumulative production in the Philippines.

"Mitsubishi has geared up with a new production plant that can produce up to 50,000 units per year, with a new goal to reach 100,000 units in sales annually by 2020, and we would not take any offense if they decide to expand and eventually produce even more,” Aquino said.

The President added that companies like Mitsubishi see many opportunities in the Philippines. “They bet on our country, the same way early Japanese companies took a risk, pursued their goals aggressively, and became dominant in the Philippines,” he said.

"Mitsubishi is a modern-day example of that tradition: taking a leap of faith through such an expansion, even with the less-than-favorable economic conditions the entire world is experiencing at present. Like you, they see in us the potential to grow even more, and we thank them for this vote of confidence in our country,” he said.

Banking update

Aquino also updated his audience about his administration efforts since he joined a gathering organized by the Nippon Keidanren in 2013.

During that meeting, Aquino recalled that a number of companies represented suggested a relaxation of Philippines’ regulations for the entry of foreign banks.

He said that since that meeting, he has signed Republic Act No. 10641 or “An Act Allowing the Full Entry of Foreign Banks in the Philippines,” amending RA, 7721, “An Act Liberalizing the Entry and Scope of Operations of Foreign Banks in the Philippines.”

He noted that Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation became the first foreign bank approved for a Philippine-banking license under this law, and that the Philippines has approved 3 other foreign banks from Korea and Taiwan.

"We hope that other banking groups will follow them very soon,” Aquino said.

Aquino also highlighted the government’s effort to support the manufacturing sector, “which is viewed by my government as vital to spurring domestic economic growth,” he said.

He shared the ongoing Manufacturing Resurgence Program, which aims to increase the sector’s contributions in relation to the total output of our economy. He said that in recent years, the country has seen the expansion of manufacturing, which has gone beyond electronics to other products, such as office equipment, medical devices, and aircraft parts.

Aquino added that the Philippines is considered a maintenance and repair hub for two major airlines, “and we now have the expertise and capacity to accommodate the largest kinds of commercial aircraft such as the Airbus A380.”

Commitment to manufacturing growth

Aquino also shared a story about International Wiring Systems Philippines (IWSP), a wiring harness company in his home province of Tarlac.

The company, working under the Sumitomo Group, managed to secure contracts from the big 3 car manufacturers of the United States automotive industry, besting competitors who had the advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Imagine that: IWSP beat the competition despite having to ship from the other side of the world, and despite having to pay corresponding duties and tariffs," he said.

Aquino added: This was happening at a time when government was less focused on capacitating our citizens. You can imagine the prospects now that our government is fully committed to this sector and to our countrymen."

He added that his administration truly believes in the potential of the manufacturing industry, and welcomed Japan’s sustained support for this sector.

He cited the Joint Statement on Industrial cooperation signed by the Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in July 2014, on support for the Philippines’ initiative to develop an Industrial Development Roadmap and to cement the Philippines’ position as a hub in the ASEAN for manufacturing and human resource development.

He also cited Japanese shipbuilder Tsuneishi, whose Philippine shipyard is fully booked until the end of the Aquino administration in 2016 despite the glut in the supply of bulk carriers.

“Actually, I was told today that they would be fully booked until 2018. This indeed only proves that businesses thrive in my country,” he shared.

He said that the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) this year is an opportunity to demonstrate that it  "can do so much more for our nation and our region.” Rappler.com