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DTI Supports Passage of Competition and Cabotage Bills on its 3rd Reading

The Department of Trade and Industry pushes for the immediate enactment of bills on Competition Law and Cabotage Law amendments, both approved on 3rd Reading by the House of Representatives last Tuesday, May 5.

DTI’s Liaison Office for Legislative Affairs Supervising Undersecretary, Dr. Prudencio M. Reyes, Jr. said that the passage of both bills will significantly improve the business climate in the Philippines.

House Bill No. 5286, also known as the Philippine Competition Act establishes the legal and institutional framework to prevent abuse of market power and dominance that will enhance protection to consumers and promote a healthy growth of industries. A key proposal to this bill is the creation of an independent Philippine Competition Commission which would keep an eye on business entities ensuring that they do not collectively engage in anti-competitive acts and practices such as cartelization, collusion, bid rigging and price fixing.

Meanwhile, the bills do not automatically prohibit existence of monopolies but the Commission shall look after their behaviour and conduct ensuring that they do not abuse their monopoly power. In relation to this, the Commission is given the power to review applications for mergers and acquisitions, prior approval. The proposed bill shall be applicable across the board, covering all entities engaging in economic activities across all sectors, no matter their legal form.

On the other hand, the House Bill No. 5610 amends the country’s set of laws and policies on Cabotage. The bill shall allow foreign ships to dock at multiple ports as well to do co-loading, which will enable the transfer of foreign cargoes (including empty containers) from one foreign vessel to another, which is prohibited under existing laws. However, the bill does not touch on domestic fleets, as it would need amendment of the Constitution to do so.

“Nevertheless, the bill is still critical to the economy at large”, the Undersecretary stressed. “It will be beneficial not only in terms of enhancing the competitiveness of our importers and exporters but also in encouraging SMEs to take advantage of opportunities in the international market as significant reduction to shipping cost is expected upon its enactment, Usec Reyes added. Incidentally, shipping remains to serve as the backbone of trade; according to Philippine Statistical Yearbook 2013, about 99.8% (198,126,883 MT) of the total RP merchandise trade is carried through maritime transport.”

Both bills have been passed earlier in the Senate. The Bicameral Conference Committee is set to meet anytime soon that shall facilitate its final approval/enactment by the President, targeted before his last SONA this coming July 2015.

Posted By: Edrillan Pasion

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