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The Philippines successfully completed its voluntary peer review on Competition Law and Policy conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva on 9 July 2014. The peer review process was undertaken as a component of the 14th Session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts Meeting on Competition Law and Policy of UNCTAD on 8-10 July 2014.

 

“We see the peer review as a process of helping our country strengthen its competition regime, which could be beneficial in further improving its economic and business environment. Our participation is in line with the President’s policy of good governance, which is aptly referred to by the President as good economics,” explained Ambassador and Permanent Representative Cecilia B. Rebong in her opening remarks.

 

The review also aims to take advantage of the capacity building and technical assistance programs that UNCTAD can provide for developing nations, like the Philippines. “This peer review can help us determine what exactly are the systemic issues and critical constraints that any jurisdiction whether competition authority or otherwise would be facing or has been faced up to,” stated DOJ Assistant Secretary and Head of the Office for Competition Geronimo Sy. He also said that when the Philippines signed up for the voluntary peer review, it was in the context of specifically engaging UNCTAD as a mechanism for an up-close and personal feel on how the UN multilateral instrument can work for individual countries, especially  on a very specialized topic, such as competition policy and law.

 

The peer review report was authored by Mr. Bob Weymouth, Chairperson of South Australian Consumer Law Consultative Forum and Ms. Deunden Nikomborirak, Competition Expert and Research Director of the Thailand Development Research Institute.

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At the end of the presentation, the experts made the following recommendations, among others: promulgation of a comprehensive competition law which applies to all sectors of the economy and with minimal exemptions; and transparent, independent and well-funded regulatory authority, which should have access to full-range of enforcement options to ensure compliance.

 

Members of the Panel who reviewed the report on the Philippines’ Competition Law and Policy were: Professor William Kovacic of George Washington University, Chairman Muhammad Nawir Messi of the Indonesian Competition Commission (KPPU), Senior Planning Officer Toshiko Igarashi of the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) and Head of Unit International Competition Matters Barbara Schulze of the Bundeskartellamt Federal Cartel Office in Germany.

 

As follow up to the peer review report, the UNCTAD has prepared a three-year Technical Assistance Project Proposal for the Philippines, which begins in 2015. Its overall objective is to create a well-functioning market economy in the country conducive to enterprise development, economic growth and improved consumer welfare. The project proposal will help enable the DOJ-OFC enhance its effectiveness and efficiency in competition law enforcement and improve business environment towards inclusive development of the country.

 

The project’s specific activities for capacity-building include providing training on competition law and policy and investigation techniques for the DOJ-OFC staff, and training for the judiciary on competition law enforcement.

 

Establishing mechanisms is also important to promote mutual understanding and improve cooperation between DOJ-OFC and other Government institutions, including sector regulators and academe. Hence, the project proposes the conduct of advocacy seminars on the role of competition law and its benefits for the economy and consumers for government officials, consumer associations, the business community, academics, lawyers and judiciary.

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In the course of the 14th Session of the IGE and Voluntary Peer Review of the Philippines on Competition Law and Policy, the Philippine delegation called on Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD Petko Draganov in the latter’s office at the Palais des Nations on 8 July 2014.

 

The Deputy Secretary General commended the Office for Competition (OFC) of the DOJ for its contribution and willingness to provide something valuable for the nation. He said that the agency has a full commitment to get things right for the future.

 

DOJ-OFC Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy explained that initially, what the DOJ-OFC wanted was to find out what works and what does not work for the country in terms of Competition models and theories. He said that information on the implementation outcomes of other countries would be beneficial for the Philippines. Mr. Draganov affirmed the importance of sharing best practices and experiences among member-countries through the IGE meeting on competition law and policy.

 

Assistant Secretary Sy further said that the governance structure is very important in competition policy and law enforcement. Without such an assessment on the systemic and long term issues, any attempt at enforcement, whether it is a criminal justice or competition law approach, will invariably be very difficult.

 

Building on the current Administration’s goal to join the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, PIDS President Gilberto Llanto also pointed out the importance of the voluntary peer review on the Philippines' current efforts to promote and develop SMEs, which is one of the pillars of the AEC.

 

The Philippine delegation to the Peer Review was composed of DOJ-OFC Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy (Head of Phildel), Ambassador Cecilia Rebong (Permanent Representative and Co-head), SEC Chairperson Teresita Herbosa, PIDS President Gilberto Llanto, Deputy Permanent Representative Noralyn Baja, DOJ State Counsel Florina Agtarap, Securities Regulations Counsel Ela Xavier-Padilla, DTI Trade Officer Celynne Layug and Attaché Marivil Valles.- END