Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pnoy designates DOJ as competition authority

"Aquino designates De Lima as competition authority"
GMA News Online, 15 June 2011
(Original article available here).

"President Benigno Aquino III has designated Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as the country’s competition authority tasked to prevent monopolies, cartels and protect consumers from abusive business practices.

In Executive Order 45 signed June 9, Aquino created the Office for Competition under the Department of Justice (DOJ), citing the need to promote competition and level the playing field in the market

According to the EO, De Lima was chosen for the task because she is the principal legal counsel and prosecution arm of the government, and also the central authority for matters requiring international legal cooperation.

“The DOJ likewise serves as the principal agency mandated to enforce the rule of law and investigate and prosecute offenders," the EO stated.

Being a competition authority, De Lima is tasked to investigate all cases involving violations of competition laws and prosecute violators to prevent, restrain and punish monopolization, cartels and combination in restraint of trade.

She will also enforce competition policies and laws to protect consumers from abusive, fraudulent, or harmful corrupt business practices.

It will also be her job to supervise competition in markets by ensuring that prohibitions and requirements of competition laws are adhered to, and to this end, call on other government agencies and/or entities for submission of reports and provision for assistance.

She will need to monitor and implement measures to promote transparency and accountability in markets.

De Lima is also tasked to prepare, publish and disseminate studies and reports on competition to inform and guide the industry and consumers and promote international cooperation and strengthen Philippine trade relations with other countries, economies, and institutions in trade agreements.

President Aquino also signed on June 3 Executive Order 44, which expands a public-private sector task force in charge of addressing investor issues in fresh bid to improve the global competitiveness of the Philippines.

In a press statement Wednesday, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said EO 44 is a step toward enhancing the competitive ranking of the country while strengthening the local industries.

“The government and the business sector have the shared aspiration to jointly address the competitiveness indicators that will impact on our international competitiveness ranking and strengthen our industries, agriculture and service sectors, and thereby create more jobs and increase income," Ochoa said.

The President’s order renames the Public-Private Sector Task Force on Philippine Competitiveness, established on October 5, 2006, to National Competitiveness Council (NCC). The council is attached to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and will report to the Cabinet’s Economic Development Cluster.

EO 44 beefs up the NCC with the inclusion of the heads of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Tourism (DOT). Other members are the secretaries of DTI and the Departments of Finance and Education, director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, and five representatives from the private sector.

Ochoa said the President deemed it important to include the DOE secretary in the joint panel in view of the rising cost of power that dulls the country’s international competitiveness.

“The DOT is included in the NCC in recognition of the fact that the development of the tourism industry holds the greatest potential for job creation and generation of additional revenues for the government," he said.

Under EO 44, the NCC serves as a primary collection point of investor issues that need to be addressed in order to improve international competitiveness in the industry, services and agricultural sectors.

The council will advise the President on policy matters affecting the competitiveness of the business sector and provide inputs to the Philippine Development Plan, the Philippine Investments Priority Plan and the Philippine Exports Priority Plan.

Part of the NCC’s task is to coordinate, monitor and ensure the implementation of key policy improvement processes associated with international competitiveness, as well as recommend legislation that may contribute to further boost competitiveness.

Designated to head the NCC was Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo with a private sector representative, to be appointed by the President, as co-chairperson. The five representatives from the private sector will have a term of two years.

The DTI-Center for Industrial Competitiveness serves as the NCC Secretariat to be headed by its executive director, with the support of a private sector staff headed by an operations director.

The EO earmarks P5 million, which will be drawn from the contingency fund of the Office of the President, for the operating expenses of the NCC. Subsequent annual funding of the council will be incorporated in the regular budget of the DTI and subject to existing accounting and auditing laws and regulations, while the private sector shall provide funding for its own activities. — Amita O. Legaspi/KBK, GMA News"

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