8-point agenda ‘reassuring’

THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) is optimistic that the new administration will support the implementation of the Philippine Competition Act, as it reflects that of the economic agenda disclosed by the camp of presumptive president Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

“I think the eight-point economic agenda is reassuring that the new administration will continue the programs (of the present administration), which are workable and beneficial,” said PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan yesterday.

PCC is a quasi-judicial body tasked to enforce and implement the provisions of the Philippine Competition Act.

Duterte vowed to boost the country’s economy by continuing and maintaining the current macroeconomic policies, ensuring attractiveness of the Philippines to foreign investors, and enhancing competitiveness in doing business in the country, among others.

Balisacan added the creation of the PCC will not be affected by the transition to the new administration, as the commissioners will serve for seven years without reappointment and will enjoy security of tenure.

PCC officials were in Cebu yesterday to kick off the nine-day public consultation on the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on the Philippine Competition Act. The team invited business groups and other stakeholders so they could solicit inputs to fine-tune the IRR before it is submitted to outgoing President Benigno Aquino III for approval.

The consultations will be done across the country from May 16 to 24.

The final and approved version of the IRR will allow PCC to fully implement the Philippine Competition Act. It will be released in June.

The bill was signed into law last July 2015. It is among the longest-running pending measures in Congress, taking more than 20 years before it passed the critical eye of the legislative body.

Balisacan, former economic planning secretary and director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), described the Philippine Competition Act as a game changing legislation that is expected to boost employment across all industries, attract more foreign investors and local investors, and help grow small businesses in a more conducive and level-playing business landscape.

Among the salient features of the law include —leveling the business playing field for all companies operating in the country, from the large foreign multinationals down to the local micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises; creation of the PCC that will look into anti-competitive behavior, abuses in dominant positions, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions; prohibiting acts such as the abuse of dominant position and anti-competitive agreements.

Activities under abuse of dominant position include selling goods or services below the market prices to suppress competition; imposing barriers to entry; imposing restriction on the lease or contract of sale or trade of goods and services that is anti-competitive; and making the supply of such goods dependent on the purchase of other goods or services.

Anti-competitive agreements include price fixing; limiting or controlling production, relevant markets and technical development or investment; dividing or sharing the relevant market, geographically, in terms of volume of sales, type of goods or services, or buyers and sellers; and application of dissimilar conditions to different parties.

More than the positive impact the competition law will bring to grow business, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 Director Asteria Caberte said the law is also a welcome development for consumers.

The law will protect consumers from predatory pricing or selling items at lower prices to undercut competitors while discouraging new players to participate. It will pave the way for better products and services at better rates, force businesses to innovate to stay ahead in competition and produce more varied products in the market.

Telecommunications, infrastructure, energy, cement, and airlines are some of the domestic industries that are deemed anti-competition.

Moreover, the law will also help advance or will give the country a strong foothold as it engages in trade within the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Balisacan noted that most members of the AEC already have competition laws and have adapted strong legal frameworks.

The Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport) earlier asked to fast track the drafting and approval of the IRR, saying it is crucial in attracting more investments into the country within the AEC.

“This is critically important within the AEC to protect both local and foreign businesses with the legal environment against anti-competitive trade practices,” said Philexport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., in a statement.

He cited ASEAN neighbors like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, which have adapted strong legal frameworks to guard against such trade practices. He said these countries register higher foreign direct investments than its ASEAN peers that have not adopted their competition law.

The export leader, likewise, encouraged companies to draft and implement their compliance program to avoid the risks of violating the law.

Administrative fines of up to P250 million can be imposed for those violating the Philippine Competition Act. Criminal penalties for anti-competitive agreements are punishable by imprisonment of two to seven years and a fine of P50 million to P250 million.

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