The Philippine bicameral Congress needs to pass the competition bill to level the business playing field and align the country with international standards, Senator Bam Aquino told students at an Ayala-UP School of Economics (UPSE) Economic Forum on Monday.
Emphasizing the bill is not against big business, Aquino said in a speech at the Forum at the Ayala Museum in Makati City dubbed “The Case for the Philippine Competition Law:”
“What does the bill basically penalize? It does not penalize size; it does not penalize status; it penalizes abuse of dominant position and anti-competitive agreements. We just want to be very clear about that. This is not a bill against being big. In fact, if you’re large and you got there because you’re fair and you gave your best to the consumer, then the best of luck to you and we hope you grow even more,” Aquino, who is also chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, said.
“A competition policy is also a requirement for entering agreements with other countries. The ASEAN Integration, joining the (TPP) Trans-Pacific Partnership, having bilateral with other countries — it (the bill) can hopefully open up our markets even more,” he said
“In the ASEAN Integration for example, competition policies are set there. So technically, we’re already late. This commitment was done many, many years ago and we are already late. So hopefully, once this is passed, we can get people appointed, and please, join the discussions, join the debate,” he added.
He said the Philippines is in the process of shedding its developing-country status and on its way to becoming a middle-income economy.
“The session goes from May 3 to June 3 and hopefully, we’ll be able to pass that in Congress on June 3. We’ll go over the Bi-Cam (bicameral) in July and hopefully, we’ll have this signed before the SONA,” he said, referring to the State-of-the-Nation Address in July.
“If we can’t get it signed by the SONA, hopefully before the end of the year, this will be law.”
“For me and for a lot of people, this seems to be one of those … requirements to get to the next level where we can compete with the rest of the world, where countries will look at us, investors will look at us and will not see us as a banana republic but as a country where rules are in place, where regulations are in place and where we can actually use their regulations as parameters to move forward,” he said.
“It’s not an easy law to understand but at best, I think what people say when you talk to them and you tell them more options, more choices, lower prices, better for the consumers and you’re fighting monopolies and cartels, definitely people appreciate and understand that. If you’re part of the public discussion, and again I really imagine this being passed, that being part of the public discussion will help us, will help the president to put in people that will honor the objectives of this bill and really be able to create that new regime for our country, he added.
Competition lawyer Anthony A. Abad, who is chief executive officer of the Trade Advisory Group, stressed that the country needs to move forward in putting market rules in place.
The government has taken initial steps to liberalize the economy and allow competition, he said. “But after that, there was no follow-through… What are the rules of the game? When you say free market or fair market, it should be — everybody is competing. What is anti-competition, that’s collusion, cartel … and you use it to exclude other competitors. We need [the rule of]law to be able to determine that,” he added.