ECONOMIC Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan is leaving his post at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to head the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), a new body created under the landmark Fair Competition Act or Republic Act 10667.
As PCC chairman, Balisacan will have a seven-year term, according to a highly-placed government source.
Under the law, the commission will have four commissioners and an executive director.
A Palace official, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said Balisacan’s appointment will be announced by President Benigno Aquino 3rd before a ban on appointments takes effect on March 25.
“It’s more of a reward for his contribution to the administration. We know how valuable he [Balisacan] is and how well he managed his position as NEDA chief. Whatever happens after the elections, we are sure that Balisacan will continue to be there to share his expertise,” the source told The Manila Times in an interview.
Also to be “rewarded,” he said, are three deputies of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., two of whom will fill up two of the six vacancies at the Sandiganbayan.
The two officials are Deputy Executive Secretary for General Administration Teofilo Pilando Jr. and Deputy Executive Secretary for Special Concerns Michael Musngi.
The third, Menardo Guevarra, Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, will be appointed to the PCC along with Balisacan.
“Guevarra will be tasked to help Balisacan there. They will be the pioneers in the commission,” the source said.
The President’s cousin, Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th, was the principal author of the measure that created the PCC, which seeks to prevent unfair business practices such as monopolies and combinations of trade, among others.
Senator Aquino had described the law as “historic and game-changing” because “it’s the first time we’ve ever had a competition law.”
As chairman of the PCC, Balisacan will be in charge of leveling the playing field by prohibiting anti-competitive agreements, abuses of dominant positions and mergers and acquisitions that limit, prevent and restrict competition.
The commission aims to benefit consumers by giving them more choices and lower prices.
Also, the PCC shall shepherd the country’s economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community (AEC).
Prior to the passage of the Act, the Philippines was the only country among the five original Asean members that had no effective competition law.
The competition law was among the top priorities of Congress, having been in the legislative mill since the time of the President’s mother, Corazon Aquino.
Balisacan was appointed as NEDA chief on May 10, 2012, and has since been in charge of addressing critical constraints that make economic growth slow, uneven and exclusive to certain segments of the Philippine society.
Concurrent to his role as secretary of Socioeconomic Planning and Director-General of NEDA, he also serves as Board Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine Center for Economic Development; the first Governing Board Chairman of the Public-Private Partnership Center of the Philippines; and the first Board Chairman of the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Balisacan, as one of the “doers” in the Aquino Administration, has been able to influence policies, programs and projects to facilitate inclusive economic growth, employment creation and poverty reduction.
He is credited for the recent remarkable performance of the Philippine economy that averaged 6.2 percent for the past few years, the fastest growth rate for the country in four decades.
Meanwhile, the Palace source claimed that the expected appointments of the three deputies of Ochoa will be a form of goodwill for their contribution to the Aquino government.
The problem is that while Musngi has been considered among 37 nominees shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), Pilando was not.
The JBC previously issued a list of the 37 nominees for the six vacancies in the anti-graft court.