DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Philippine Competition Commission warned cartels that they are under the radar as it claimed to intensify crackdown against monopolies and promote fair competition to small and big businesses in the country.
In a press conference Tuesday, Arsenio Balisacan, chairman of PCC said the country’s Competition Act applies to big and small businesses aimed at providing “a level playing field protecting business fields from anti competitive conduct.”
“As the country’s anti-trust body, we endeavor to crack down on the cartels, break up monopolies, penalize and fine companies that are found guilty of anti-competitive behavior,” Balisacan said.
The former National Economic and Development Authority chief said Republic Act 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act, enacted last July 2015, aims to regulate “anti-competitive” behaviors and agreements and prohibits the restriction or lessening of competition.
“Market dominance may not be prohibited per se, but the law prohibits using market power to restrict or lessen competition,” he said.
Attracting foreign investors
However, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the competition policy of the government is “geared towards attracting foreign investments.”
“This will never benefit the people because the interest of capitalists is to gain profit,” said Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bayan in Southern Mindanao Region.
Duazo said the neoliberal economy “is a fertile ground that breeds monopoly capitalism.”
“Under neoliberalism, there can be no fair competition because small businesses do not have the capital similar to big players. This will eventually lead to the bankruptcy of small players and the monopoly of the giant players,” Duazo said.
She added capitalists’ priority is to gain bigger profit resulting in exploitation of Filipino workers and consumers.
PCC’s Balisacan listed the following as prohibited by law:
1) Cartels where companies that should be competing with each other, instead collude to share the market or manipulate prices;
2) Price fixing where competitors even in the context of trade association agree to a common price;
3) Bid-rigging where competing bidders conspire to offer only high prices and agreeing beforehand on who will win the bid; and
4) Abuse of dominant market position where companies command a market abuse their dominance to stamp out or exclude any competitors.
Balisacan also said they are closely watching mergers and acquisitions that “prevent, restrict, or lessen competition in the market.”
After a year since its founding, Balisacan said the PCC has received 80 notifications of mergers and acquisitions worth P1.7 trillion.
Balisacan added that they have eight referrals for “possible anti-competitive conduct in various industries.”
Currently, the PCC has an ongoing legal case against Globe and PLDT on 70-billion acquisition in the telecommunication sector.
“We now await a decision from the court of appeals to determine if we can finally move forward for our legally mandated review of this Telco deal,” he said.
Balisacan said industries that are prone to the control of cartels include utilities, among others.
Balisacan said the safeguards in market competitions brings about “more rapid and sustainable” economic growth.
“As the pressure of competition enhances efficiency and productivity growth in all businesses, industries or areas of the country. Greater productivity of businesses means Filipinos benefit through higher incomes from having more and better quality jobs,” he said.
Balisacan said competition in businesses benefits consumers with “lower prices, better quality of goods and services and more choices in market.”
“Protecting market competition will grow the economy. And it will make this growth more poverty-reducing and inclusive,” he said.
Assistance to small businesses
For his part, Atty. Arnold Abejaron, an economics professor at the Ateneo De Davao University, said the government should ensure that small players are assisted to ensure that the playing field is leveled.
“Kailangang pagtuonan nila na mabigyan ng suporta kahit man lang in a short term yung mga maliliit na negosyo kasi bagamat they are creating a leveled playing field as much as possible, the reality is we cannot say there is equal playing field when one is big and the other small,” he said.
“Even in theory, in the perfect competition (concept) the assumption is that you all have the same status, you are all small, so that each other is following a price dictated by the market,” he said.
Abejaron said the big businesses, currently, can dictate the price in the market.
“It is best if the government would address the concerns of small businesses, in which area do they need assistance, access to market or capital to enable them in developing their businesses,” Abejaron said.
Currently, Balisacan said they are completing the National Competition Policy Review “to have a broader perspective” of competition on businesses in the country.(davaotoday.com)