Oct 222013

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will need to pass a competition policy to create an environment more conducive for business and attract much needed investments to achieve economic growth and prepare for regional economic integration.

Speaking at the 39th Philippine Business Conference and Expo yesterday, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the country needs a competition policy to create an environment conducive to investor as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to establish regional economic integration in 2015.

The ASEAN economic community (AEC) is expected to lead to free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labor as well as flow of capital in the region.

As the AEC will be put in place in two years time, Belmonte said all member nations including the Philippines will have to prepare and look at how they could maximize the benefits of economic integration, while minimizing its costs to the society.

“In our own country, competitiveness-enhancing policies are necessary when faced with the conditions in the domestic and international markets. Relaxed foreign investment and ownership requirements, a liberalized trade policy, and further economic deregulation – all these may be part of our competitiveness policy which seeks to promote efficiency and maximize welfare,” Belmonte said.

He noted though that the country’s existing laws are not sufficient to hurdle problems that may arise in 2015 should the ASEAN constitute itself into a single market.

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To attract investments and prepare for the AEC, he said the country clearly needs a well-defined national policy on competition.

“This is why I have urged my colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass the proposed Philippine Fair Competition Act of 2013, which I authored,” he said.

House Bill 1133, which is now pending at the House Committee on Trade and Industry, aims to minimize, if not totally eradicate unfair competition, monopolies and cartels as well as promote consumer protection.

The bill proposes the creation of a Philippine Fair Trade Commission that will prosecute those engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices and other such practices with the purpose of preventing, restricting or distorting competition.

Among the prohibited acts under the proposed measure are predatory behavior toward competitors, limitation and control of markets, market allocation, arrangements to share markets or sources of supply, price discrimination, exclusivity arrangement, tie-in arrangements and boycott.

The Joint Foreign Chambers and Philippine Business Groups said earlier a competition policy is among the key reforms needed to attract more investments here and support economic growth.

Belmonte said that as competitiveness is also hindered by discriminatory rules on foreign direct investments that limit foreign ownership and trade, he continues to make representations to discuss possible amendments to the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.

The Constitution sets a limit on the ownership of foreign individuals in certain sectors of the economy.

“I firmly believe that relaxing the provisions on ownership of land, utilities, educational institutions, and mass media will bring in investments that will create much needed jobs,” Belmonte said.

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