THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said it is cooperating with antitrust authorities in Southeast Asia to strengthen its enforcement activities against foreign companies operating in the Philippines.
At the first hearing of the congressional oversight committee on competition (COCC), PCC Commissioner Amabelle C. Asuncion said the “extra-territorial enforcement of rulings” by competition authorities has been a challenge for regulators everywhere.
She cited similar coordination among European Union authorities.
“There is that kind of coordination even during the time that they’re reviewing the cases,” she said, referring to the European Competition Network. “They’re already coordinating so that they can make sure that one, the rulings are consistent and number two, that they are enforceable,” Ms. Asuncion said.
“Now in our context, we’re starting to build similar networks with the ASEAN countries so that’s in the works,” she added.
Ms. Asuncion was responding to the questions raised by Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian during the hearing regarding PCC’s ability to enforce anti-competitive rulings on cross-border or borderless transactions, citing the acquisition of ride-sharing application Grab of Uber’s operations in Southeast Asia.
The PCC Commissioner said the agency has jurisdiction over the merger because of the existence of assets and operations of Grab in the Philippines.
“They do have assets here. Their operations are here in the Philippines, so in that we have jurisdiction over those so we can still enforce the remedies in terms of how will they operate in the Philippines. We’re not totally powerless in that sense,” Ms. Asuncion said.
“But of course there’s still that challenge enforcing it outside the Philippines. But as I said we’re already coordinating with other competition agencies in the area,” she added.
The PCC chairman, Arsenio M. Balisacan, speaking at the hearing, identified “cross-border competition concerns” as among the emerging challenges facing the agency three years into its operations.
“The PCC is bracing itself given the realities of a globalized world. This means that cross-border competition concerns and global mergers or cartels are seen to intensify globalization. Also, disruptive innovations and the features of the digital economy make enforcement more complex and warrant appropriate technical expertise,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of strengthening the PCC’s capacity to deal with competition in e-commerce and the digital economy. He said the agency has been sharing its experiences with various countries, including the European Union, United States and Singapore to address these concerns.
The concerns go beyond human transactions but also “interaction… in the algorithm, the humanless and faceless art of controlling the markets. And that’s where we need to strengthen our capacity,” he said.
The congressional hearing was convened to update legislators on the implementation of Republic Act No. 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act, which was signed into law in 2015.
Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III, who chairs the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship, told reporters after the hearing that there was no need to amend the law.
“We asked the Philippine Competition Commission if they feel if there is a need to amend the law, they are not ready to pass anything so that means the PCC can still live with the present law,” he said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo