Viral > Lesson

The perfect reply to those who defend smuggled cars

An automotive journalist enlightens a misguided dude

Yes, that is a Lamborghini. No, it’s not a pretty sight. PHOTO FROM CAGAYAN PROVINCIAL INFORMATION OFFICE

In February, the current government administration surprised everyone by staging a car-wrecking spectacle at the Port of Manila, in which the Bureau of Customs supposedly destroyed smuggled automobiles that had been shipped to the country illegally. The intent was to scare off well-connected contrabandists—to show them that President Rodrigo Duterte was serious in ridding our ports of corruption.

But then there were those who dismissed the jaw-dropping demolition as exactly that—a show. They pointed out that most of the cars, while sporting high-end badges, were already old and that the real supercars had been spared. Whether that was true is perhaps another story.

Yesterday, government officials were at it again, this time flattening expensive sports cars and motorcycles at Port Irene in Cagayan for all mainstream and social media to see. As before, while many commended the act, several presumably car-loving individuals decried it online.

We bet you wouldn’t be able to witness this in person. PHOTO FROM CAGAYAN PROVINCIAL INFORMATION OFFICE

When we shared on our Facebook page a photo of the cars that were about to be subjected to the metal-crushing mayhem, one person wrote this comment:

EO (Executive Order) 156, people. This bans the importation of cars like these. If this wasn’t in effect, car smuggling wouldn’t be here. We protected a nonexistent local car industry not worth protecting. We make the L300 and the Vios and MPVs—nothing compared to the US, Europe and other Asian countries like Japan and Korea. “Local dealers” import completely built units. I honestly don’t get EO 156. Maybe [it made sense] for the first 10 years, but now it should be revoked.

In essence, the guy was saying: “Let’s just open the country to imported used vehicles—our locally manufactured cars suck anyway.”

The local automotive industry helps provide tens of billions of pesos to the Philippine economy, so I can’t see how it is nonexistent

Ah, but trust Philippine Daily Inquirer motoring writer and true petrolhead Botchi Santos to save the day. After reading the above comment, he replied to the person:

The automotive industry employs tens of thousands of people directly, and tens of thousands more on the OEM supplier side of the business. The local automotive industry provides direct foreign investments to the country, and pays proper taxes to government (which helps pay for infrastructure development, maintain peace and order, and more). It helps provide tens of billions of pesos to the Philippine economy. I can’t see how the local automotive industry is nonexistent. Yes, it churns out cheap, affordable cars. But I don’t see people earning even six digits a month running off to buy a used Porsche, Lamborghini or Mercedes-Benz because that’s not what the automotive masses need nor want. The market needs and wants cheap, affordable and cost-effective motoring. To put things in perspective, any car worth more than P5 million represents a measly 3.5% to 5% of the total automotive industry. This is fact and has been so for as long as the industry has existed. So I disagree that the local automotive industry is nonexistent, because it matters a whole lot. With the government’s CARS program going into full swing this year, it will matter even more in the coming years as it will provide more jobs, more taxes and more opportunities to the Philippines.

Seriously? Game over.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.