THE PHILIPPINE Competition Commission (PCC) has streamlined merger rules for solicited projects under public-private partnership (PPP), which is one of the financing modes for major infrastructure development.

Under PCC Memorandum Circular No. 19001, signed on July 2 and published on Thursday in newspapers, the watchdog now enables prospective private sector partners in PPP projects to meet the requirements of Republic Act No. 10667, or the Philippine Competition Act, and RA 6957, as amended by RA 7718 or the build-operate-transfer law, early on in the project phase. The circular takes effect on Aug. 16.

“This track enables the PCC to inject the necessary competition safeguards early on and pave the way for faster roll-out of these priority infrastructure projects,” a PCC statement quoted its chairman, Arsenio M. Balisacan, as saying. “The measure embodies efficiency of processes by the implementing agency, the PPP Center and the PCC, while remaining steadfast to our respective mandates.”

The circular provides that agencies implementing PPP projects may seek exemption “on behalf of their solicited projects’ prospective bidders” from compulsory notification to the PCC about their joint ventures. Such applications should be made prior to project development stage.

Hence, early on, the PCC can provide inputs on solicited projects’ terms of reference, as well as evaluate pre-qualification and bidding documents, draft PPP contracts and other documents.

Winning bidders are issued a Certificate of Project Exemption from the PCC.

Hence, the competition watchdog’s involvement “will be front loaded prior to bidding to address competition concerns that may arise from the project, its bidding process and bidders,” the PCC said in its statement.

“In effect, the review already screens firms for competition concerns and removes the prospect of delays,” it added. “This has the dual effect of allowing early detection of potential competition concerns and facilitation of delivery of PPP projects.” — DAV