© Provided by InterAksyon

MANILA – A plan to expand the country’s car manufacturing industry would not only create jobs, but also reduce the amount of foreign exchange spent on imported vehicles.

During a briefing on the proposed Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS), Trade Assistant Secretary Rafaelita Aldaba said the five-year program would transform the Philippines into a regional auto manufacturing hub, reducing imports and generating forex savings.

Apart from encouraging existing assemblers to ramp up production, the program is aimed at drawing new carmakers to set up their factories in the Philippines. Recently, Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo said the government is courting Germany’s Volkswagen to set up shop in the Philippines.

The program can lead to “huge reduction in forex requirements resulting from reduced completely built units imports with savings amounting to $16.84 billion or P757.8 billion,” Aldaba said.

“The goal is to shift from imported to local,” she said, adding that the Philippines imports 7 out of every 10 vehicles sold in the country.

The Philippines is one of the hottest car markets in Asean, bucking the decline in sales across the region. The local organization of auto assemblers has been reporting monthly records in sales this year.

Under the draft CARS, the government expects sales to more than double to 500,000 units by the end of the five-year program from last year’s 212,414 units.

The government is pushing for manufacturing to create more higher-paying jobs. The auto sector alone is seen to generate between 200,000 and 300,000 jobs.

Besides drafting a road map for local vehicle assembly, the government is contemplating on setting aside $600 million of the national budget for the auto program.

Based on industry estimates, a locally produced vehicle costs $2,000 more than a variant produced in other Asean countries.