Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gaining momentum - the crusade for better anti-trust laws

"Anti-trust laws" by Ducky Paredes.
Published 22 February 2011 in Malaya. (Original article also appears online here).

"IT’S good to know that not everyone in the Senate is taken up by the investigation into the corruption in the military. While that is also important, the reality is that this investigation may just eventually peter out and, as a lot of other legislative investigations "in aid of legislation" have gone, this one could still go the way of a lot of similar investigations that never even merited an official report in the files of the Senate or the House, much less any attempt at legislation that could cure what was investigated.

Hopefully, these will lead to a time when we will be proud of an uncorrupt military, police and government. For that to happen, however, we would need five of six presidents whose holy grail is the "daang tuwid."

In the event that the one after P’Noy is not committed to taking to the straight and narrow, there goes the PH!

Thus, it is good that the Senate has not placed all of its eggs in that one basket ad that Sen. Manny Villar is trying to pass an anti-trust law through the Committee on Trade and Commerce, which he heads.

This is certainly a welcome development, as the Philippines does not have any comprehensive anti-trust law to protect business owners or consumers.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the line agency that is tasked to look after trade and business operations, as well as consumer welfare, does not have the legal ammunition to fight unfair trade practices.

This is precisely why the DTI or relevant government agencies have been ineffective in dealing with or prosecuting blatant price fixing by players in certain industries.

The Competition Act of 2010 was proposed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and co-authored by Senators Ralph Recto and Antonio Trillanes.

The public forum also focused on related bills, namely, SB 123 authored by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, SB 1838 filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and Senate-Proposed Resolution No. 123 by Villar urging the holding of an inquiry on cartels and monopolies. These long overdue proposed antitrust measures seek to penalize unfair trade, anti-competitive practices and the abuse of dominant power by certain institutions – a.k.a. monopolies, cartels and some big, bad MNCs.

During the forum, Atty. Lorna Kapunan, a friend and one of the champions of this issue, presented a critique on existing legislation on anti-trust. She explained that while there are some existing laws that touch on anti-trust, the provisions do not provide clear-cut guidelines or evidence to determine whether an act constitutes unfair competition, monopolistic behavior or restraint of trade.

Speaking from experience, she shared with legislators the fact that some multinational giants often act like bullies and take advantage of the leniency present in the Philippines in order to get away with violations like predatory pricing.

Kapunan bared the ugly truth that it is very hard to do business in the Philippines if you are a Filipino. Given this bitter reality, it is high time we protect the interests of local entrepreneurs simply because SMEs are the backbone of our economy.

Let’s pass stricter laws that will protect the weak – the Pinoy dealers --from the double dealing and bullying multi-nationals that this column has been writing about for the last several years."

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