• Transparency crucial to merger reviews – PCC chief

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    THE head of the country’s anti-trust authority, the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), said on Tuesday that transparency and accountability are crucial to ensuring that merger reviews will be smooth given that the country’s competition law is still in its infancy.

    “The way to smooth merger reviews is paved with transparency and accountability. We must adhere to the law to avoid hefty fines and geared towards a culture of compliance,” PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan said in a statement.

    The PCC shared its initiatives and efforts with the United Nations (UN) competition body in addressing the challenges in implementing merger control in the country.

    As one of the pillars of competition, merger control was discussed at the 16th Session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy, a gathering of all competition authorities from around the world with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held from July 5 to 7.

    “The challenges relate to the infancy of the Philippines’ competition law in the country, referring to the Philippine Competition Act (PCA),” Balisacan said.

    The PCA was signed into law in July 2015 while PCC was established in February 2016 to enforce the competition law and implement a national competition policy to promote and protect the competitive markets.

    PCC encourages lawyers and economists to take up the emerging field of specialization.

    “In other countries, the knowledge and practice of competition law and economics are well-developed. The Philippines may be new in the game but is catching up fast,” he added.

    “We have selected the best competition practitioners to join us in PCC. We also welcome those who want to specialize in this field. Our lawyers have had to surmount a steep learning curve for us to enforce merger control as credibly and as faithfully as the law intends, and at par with other mature competition regimes,” he said.

    Balisacan cited the importance of continuous training and capacity-building on competition to better address the concerns of its stakeholders—the business sector, judiciary, legal practitioners and academe—to ensure a relevant and effective merger control regime.

    He said that competition law, unlike tax and labor laws, has yet to be prioritized as a subject in Philippine law school curriculums.

    Balisacan also allayed the concerns of the business community when PCC deals with sensitive and important information on transactions in merger review procedures. He assured them that the competition authority strictly complies with rules on confidentiality, data protection and security.

    “As the foremost authority on merger control, we assure our stakeholders that PCC applies the highest standards in dealing with business information,” he said.

    The commission also offers pre-notification consultation for chief executives and lawyers representing firms in submitting and complying with the notification process.

    To date, the PCC has received 109 notifications on mergers and acquisitions amounting to a total of P1.8 trillion, and has approved 88 transactions.

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