Atty. Johannes Benjamin R. Bernabe

10 posts

PCC five years on

The Philippine Competition Commission commemorated the fifth anniversary of its establishment on February 1 without much of a celebration. We have the pandemic to blame for that, even though the agency has continued to function and carry out its mandate during the past year’s lockdown. It is a bit of a shame because the PCC has been, in the five years of its existence, lauded in international circles for the quality of its rules and guidelines, and the soundness of its decisions particularly in the review of large mergers and acquisitions. Notably, as early as its third year, the PCC had been featured in the 2019 Global Trends Monitor published by PaRR, a competition news and analysis company, as the fifth-ranked competition agency in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of merger review, anti-trust enforcement and policy development.

Mergers and the PCC during Covid

Mergers and acquisitions have slowed down in the last eight months since the country went on lockdown to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. With the uncertainty of the extent of decrease in demand for goods and services looming large, most businesses not only have had to shelve any planned expansions but also more likely, struggled to find ways to survive. Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 is meant, among others, to offer a reprieve to businesses through various incentives and accommodations, which ease their cost of doing business amid the public health crisis and beyond. Subsidies are coupled with streamlined regulatory processes to help affected businesses, particularly micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), get through the lockdown and participate in a post-pandemic economic recovery.

A conflict of laws?

Intellectual property law and competition law have traditionally  been seen as at odds with one another. The conflict owes to the premise that intellectual property law is intended to protect the rights of inventors, artists, writers and businesses through the grant of patents, copyright and trademarks in their favor to the exclusion of others. In a very real sense, these intellectual-property rights are in the nature of monopoly rights. If the right holder does not want and refuses to allow or license the use of his patent, copyright or trademark to another person, then the community is deprived of the benefits of the right holder’s creation. 

Abusing dominance

Cartels are more easily understood by lawyers and economists familiarizing themselves with competition law concepts. Even laymen have a general understanding of price-fixing and bid-rigging as acts among competitors that ought to be prohibited and penalized.

Balancing competitive markets and public interest

A debate which remains unsettled within not only the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), but in other competition authorities around the world as well, is the extent to which “public interest” should influence the decisions and policies made by these agencies. While the answer may seem obvious, there are nuances that make a straightforward resolution more elusive than what meets the eye.

Meeting the challenge of a new telco player

The search for a third telco may have presumptively concluded with the selection of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co.  (Mislatel), and the approval given by the Senate to the transfer of controlling interest therein to a consortium led by Udenna Corp. and China Telecom. However, the challenge to ensure that the third telco lives up to the expectations of consumers for fast and reliable Internet and better overall quality of telecommunication services remains to be hurdled.

The PCC and the third telco

FILIPINOS will have a taste of more competition in the telecoms market once the third major player begins operations in 2019. This will come on the heels of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) widely anticipated selection of the new major telecoms player next month. With the new competitor in play, Filipinos are eagerly expecting faster and more widespread access to Internet service, less dropped calls and, perhaps, even lower telephone bills.

Holding Grab by the horns

Grab’s acquisition of Uber is a landmark case for the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC). It is the first transaction that the PCC reviewed motu proprio (i.e., on the PCC’s own initiative) and, with the August 10 decision, resulted in a conditional clearance.