• Anti-trust law passage gets Belmonte backing

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    Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has vowed to work for the immediate passage of the anti-trust law to curb monopolies and unfair competition that affect the growth of local businesses.

    He earlier filed House Bill 1133 that seeks to prohibit the abuse of market-dominant positions and the excessive concentration of economic power by regulating unfair business practices and improper acts. The law is intended to protect consumers and promote a balanced development of the economy.

    Rep. Mark Villar, chairman of the House trade and industry committee, scheduled the bills’ hearing today after Deputy Speaker Sergio Apostol filed his own version of the measure.

    “The objective of the anti-trust measure is to promote fair competition and prevent accumulation of economic power in various businesses operating in the country,’’ said Belmonte who declared the passage of the measure as a House priority.

    In the bill’s explanatory note, he noted that lack of genuine competition in certain industries impairs public welfare and undermines the country’s reputation for providing a business climate that would entice investors.

    “I think it has a chance to pass. We will push for it,” Belmonte said, adding that Senate President Franklin Drilon is pushing for the bill’s passage.

    Business groups supporting the measure said it was long overdue and much needed in light of the impending economic integration of countries in Southeast Asia by 2015.

    “The economy needs a competition law to upgrade the country’s competitiveness and maximize the benefits of integrating the economy with those of other Asean countries. If we give our neighbors a difficult time to do business here, they will also give us a hard time accessing the Asean market of 600 million consumers,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Alfredo Yao said in an earlier interview.

    The economic integration of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) envisaged a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development and a region fully integrated into the global economy.

    The Philippines is required to have its own Anti-Trust Law for its economy to be integrated with that of other Southeast Asian neighbors.

    If passed, the bill would discipline all businesses in the country and prevent them from distorting competition in the marketplace. The law would sanction cartels, the abuse of market power by monopolies and the unfair competition brought about by a merger, acquisition or concentration of enterprises.

    “A comprehensive competition policy would also help improve the growth of the gross domestic product, raise wages and cause prices to drop,” Belmonte said.

    “We are currently experiencing anti-competitive trade practices such as cartels and companies engaged in monopolizing both the supply and market prices in the local oil, tobacco and beverage industries,” said Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting who, along with Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., supported the Apostol measure.

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