The labor department on Thursday threw its support behind the imposition of a safeguard duty on imported passenger and light vehicles to protect workers in the automotive industry.

“This is a significant measure to protect workers and improve the labor market condition in the industry battered not just by the pandemic, but also the influx of imported vehicles,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

Bello cited data from the Labor Force Survey that showed employment in the automotive sector declined from a high of 109,000 in 2016 to 93,000 in 2019. This is despite the growth of the automotive market driven by high domestic consumption.

As a labor-intensive industry, he said, the potential for employment opportunities in the industry is significant.

Bello added this has been one of the considerations for pushing the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS), and among the factors for identifying the industry as one of the Key Employment Generators under the manufacturing industry in the DOLE JobsFit 2022.

But this potential was reversed by massive importation over the years, he said.

“The convenience of importing vehicles in contrast to manufacturing the same in the country jeopardized the potential of the industry to contribute more in the labor market,” Bello said.

Through the imposition of a Safeguard Duty, he said, “we hope to encourage industry players to focus more on investing and developing the domestic market, including our human resources.”

“This is a significant step as the Government pursues its recovery efforts by focusing on manufacturing resurgence and upgrading of workforce,” Bello added