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BEYOND SIGHT: Nissan Phl’s gambit an opportunity to seize

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By Monsi A. Serrano

I won’t pretend to be an expert in Japanese culture or business dynamics. But I could fairly claim a good familiarity with their unique “keiei rinri” or business ethics.

The recent decision of Nissan Philippines to shut down its assembly operations in the country this March has caught many people by surprise — myself not included for reasons I’d discuss later.

Despite this unfortunate development, Nissan Philippines Inc. President and Managing Director Atsushi Najima assured valued customers and the Filipino people that Nissan Philippines is here to stay and shall continue to serve its customers. “Nissan remains committed to its investments in the Philippines. The company will continue to contribute to the growth of the Philippine automotive industry through its innovative products and excellent services, as well as its dealer expansion nationwide,” said Mr. Najima.

THEPHILBIZNEWS has always been in the loop when it comes to Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) updates on business developments concerning Japanese firms. In recent years, it has aired concerns over changes in the ownership of the companies in the Philippines and tax incentives to encourage more investors to come or stay in the Philippines. But apparently, the Department of Finance continues to be deaf to calls for incentives. The Board of Investments of the Philippines (BOI) has said that incentives afforded to foreign investors should at least be at par with other ASEAN-member countries.

This is the same sentiment across foreign chambers of commerce in the Philippines, that the incentives for foreign investors would be something attractive to keep their business in the country given the fact our ASEAN neighbors have been very aggressive in enticing investors to do business in their respective countries.

I remember what the president of a Korean company in the Philippines told me back in the third quarter of 2016 when they invited me to the groundbreaking of their other branch. In a worried tone, he said: “The Philippines should not just focus on China investors. This is bad for the country and will spook other foreign investors.”

The truth is, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and now Cambodia have been very aggressive in their bells and whistles strategy by offering attractive incentives to foreign investors. My Japanese friend who studied in the UK describes these trade policies as “very hard to refuse.”

Compared with other Asian counterparts and Westerners, the Japanese have group solidarity, even in terms of decision-making. Thus, it is important to understand this peculiar cultural mindset of the Japanese. The team concept is not just strong but also very important to them.

I can safely presume that the decision of Nissan Philippines to close the assembly operation in the Philippines went through the “nemawashi.” This involves the Japanese’s management values consensus. I am sure even companies that are part of JETRO have the same process. And as what a Japanese proverb says, “A single arrow is easily broken but not ten in a bundle.”

I hope that before other foreign firms follow to the exit, this administration will take time to seriously listen to the sentiments and valuable input not just of the Japanese investors but also to other investors.

As for Nissan Philippines, they will continue to be here in the country to do business and my hope is they will reinstate their assembly plant when better times return at the end of this pandemic. Perhaps, the government can even start reaching out to the top executives of Nissan and see how they can help in its bid to ramp up its sustainable mobility initiatives.

As they gear up to launch the Nissan Leaf in the Philippines, I hope that the government will look beyond the marketing activity of Nissan Philippines Inc., by encouraging them to start manufacturing their EV in the Philippines and give them the necessary and attractive incentives and start the ball rolling again. When this happens, this would certainly catch the attention of other foreign investors and suddenly put the Philippines on their radar for future offshore investment plans.

Nissan Philippines took a daring gambit in their plan to bring in the EV to the Philippines. I wish them well in their effort and determination to contribute to environmental preservation through sustainable mobility. For our government, I hope to see astuteness in them and see an opportunity in the future of mobility and support Nissan in their effort to import the vehicles and then in the process convince them to set up their manufacturing of EV in the Philippines.

On final note, it is an admirable tactic for Nissan to be at the forefront in bringing the EV to the Philippines as they look towards the future. As the Japanese proverb goes, “Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu“. (You cannot get a cub without going into the tiger’s cave.)

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