‘No single biz must take advantage of a place’

Business.SunStar Graphics Business

CEBUANOS are urged to report any instances of anti-competitive business practices to the recently established investigation station (i-Station) of the Philippine Competition Commission (PhCC) located in Cebu Business Park.

Doing such, according to PhCC chairperson Michael Aguinaldo, would help create a healthier business environment where competition thrives for better products and services, lower prices, and more choices for Filipinos. Anti-competitive business practices include cartels, price-fixing, bid-rigging, output limitation, market allocation, exclusive dealing, tying and bundling, and unfair mergers and acquisitions, among others.

“The establishment of the Cebu i-Station is a response to the increasing demand for enhanced competition law enforcement and advocacy in the Visayas, the most vibrant economy in central Philippines,” Aguinaldo said, in a media briefing Thursday, Nov. 15, 2023.

Consumers or business entities may lodge their complaints to the PhCC by sending an email or by visiting the Cebu i-Station located on the sixth floor of the 2Quad Building in Cebu Business Park in Cebu City.

The Cebu i-Station which began its operations in July this year is fourth in the country after the cities of Baguio and Legazpi in Luzon and Davao City in Mindanao.

“The importance of i-Stations cannot be underestimated, as it is through these regional hubs that we can ensure that the benefits of competition are reaped by our countrymen in rural areas. It’s not uncommon for anti-competitive practices to take root in these areas—especially in sectors such as agriculture, logistics, and tourism. It’s important that no single business or entity takes advantage of the isolation of a specific place in order to reap undue profits at the expense of consumers,” said Aguinaldo.

Aguinaldo emphasized that without competition, there is no motivation for businesses to provide convenient and fast services to consumers, and no reason to innovate products.

The i-Stations will serve as temporary PhCC workstations for the conduct of investigation work, field missions, surveillance, interviews, and market monitoring until permanent regional offices are set up in the future.

“Our operations entail a range of activities, including field missions, market studies, consultations, focus group discussions, and other initiatives, in order to achieve a deeper understanding of market competition concerns in Cebu and the rest of the Visayas. It is our hope that the initiatives launched here will lay the groundwork for the establishment of a permanent regional office in the future,” he said.

The i-Stations are also expected to help PhCC in its work with other government agencies and the private sector on competition-related research, advocacy and capacity-building programs. Since operations in July, the Cebu i-Station, which also covers the Visayas region, has been actively addressing various anti-competitive issues across diverse industries. Aguinaldo said the team is currently engaged in cases related to price fixing in the transportation and tourism sectors, addressing instances of abuses of dominance in the manufacturing sector and an internet service provider and scrutinizing mergers and acquisitions in the banking industry.

Asked if PhCC’s presence may hinder the potential entry of investments, Aguinaldo acknowledged there are concerns that the office is adding another bureaucratic layer in the process but they are working on streamlining their processes.

“The concern is it might take some time (reviewing or investigating) but we foresee that the speed will improve over time. We do have strict deadlines. For example, in mergers and acquisitions, it has to be resolved, as a rule, within 30 days from filing with the commission and if it is not acted upon in 30 days, it is deemed approved,” said Aguinaldo.

For this year, PhCC is looking at anti-competitive business practices in e-commerce, health/pharmaceuticals, food and agriculture, energy electricity, water and telecommunications.

Created in 2016, PhCC is tasked to promote economic development and enhance public welfare through free and fair market competition by prohibiting anti-competitive agreements, abuses of dominant positions, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, and advocating for pro-competition policies.

From 2016 to 2022, the PhCC has reported 225 mergers and acquisitions reviewed, 73 enforcement cases investigated and P170 million in fines imposed.


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