• Anti-trust law to protect farmers from tobacco giants

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    The country’s over six million tobacco farmers and their dependents should rally behind the creation of an anti-trust law to protect them from foreign monopolists out to control the multibillion tobacco industry.

    The call was made on Friday by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., who noted that the proposed anti-trust law favors the people and the national economic interest.

    Once ratified, the law will provide a level business atmosphere across all industries, Barzaga added.

    He said seven bills on the subject have been moved to the House Committee on Rules for consolidation in preparation for plenary debate.

    The proposed law, according to Barzaga, also aims to protect the economic interest of local tobacco farmers and local tobacco companies “who mutually rely on each other to make clean and honest profit.”

    He pointed out that the absence of such a law enables big businesses to manipulate prices, control supplies, dictate government budgets through paid taxes and exercise strong lobbying power to pursue their economic interests.

    Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, who authored his own version of the anti-trust law through House Bill 4479, said his measure seeks to promote free and fair competition as well as transparency and fair pricing.

    Umali, chairman of the House Committee on Energy, added that such a law is needed to ensure full participation of small- and medium-scale enterprises in putting the country’s economy on solid footing.

    It is “imperative to protect the people both from foreign and local monopolies as well as oligopolies,” he said.

    If enacted, the anti-trust law will mete heavy penalties on business enterprises that engage in monopolies, economic dominance, cartels, anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions and anti-trade practices.

    These penalties will curtail if not eradicate unfair competition, Umali said.

    An anti-trust law is seen to be increasingly crucial as the Philippines prepares for the economic integration of Asean countries beginning next year.

    The integration is seen to boost the country’s competitiveness and give it access to the joint Association of Southeast Asian Nations market of more than 600 million consumers.

    Aside from fostering an improved business climate and promoting trade influx, the anti-trust law will also protect local consumers from unlawful overpricing of goods, commodities and basic services, its proponents said.

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