Birthdays and Competition. What’s First?

Birthdays are special moments that should not only be remembered as the day we first saw light, but these are also days that we should look back to the day when we took our first breath of fresh air and ask upon ourselves, what have we  done to give meaning to life.

With that, I would like to greet Pastor Apollo Quiboloy a Happy Birthday.  Indeed, you have lived and continue to live a very meaningful life. Your spiritual guidance and interventions have saved so many lives that used to be devoid of meaning, even as that quaint person in you remains to be the guiding light of your millions of followers and believers who live righteous lives.

May you then have many more happy years to celebrate your day of life and more years to help give meaning to other peoples’ lives as well.  Again, Happy Birthday Pastor.

What matters in life is how we live it, and not with how much we have with it. And I continue to live my life for God, my family, the industry sector that I represent as Chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) and for the consumers, of which cause I have been fighting for years.

Thus, today’s headlines about competition being sidelined at the expense of consumers because of some lethargic government officials, even as the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) asserts its mandate to establish a level playing field for consumers and the business sector, have, brought back memories of my fight against a party list group that now has representation at Congress, despite its being questioned in the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

I happened to be present during the COMELEC hearing on LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA) eligibility as a party list group, when then COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes asked LPGMA what sector do they represent among those listed in the constitution and its enabling law as qualified to have party list representation. And in response, an LPGMA official said they represent the professional group. But when asked further by Brillantes what professional courses have their members finished since the constitution and its enabling law’s list does not mention any trade group for that matter,  the LPGMA representative answered again that they belong to the small professionals.

At that point, I asked, after being recognized at the hearing, that if LPGMA represents itself as a party list group representing the professionals, why are they  registered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and not with the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC)

However, while I wanted to say more about the issue during the hearing, I was cut short by the committee chair upon the LPGMA lawyer’s objection. I am  perplexed at how LPGMA was able to get COMELEC accreditation as a party list group when the sector they claim to represent is not even included in the constitution and its enabling law’s list of qualified sectors. Isn’t there a Doctrine in Law that says, “What is not included, is deemed excluded”.

Will the COMELEC ruling on LPGMA not open the floodgates for any group of dealers, street vendors or any group engaged in business to seek COMELEC accreditation as a party list group as well?  That being the case, I can even ask the group of “taho” (soya), chicken and even the peanut vendors to organize themselves into a party list group and get COMELEC  accreditation, based on the COMELEC ruling on LPGMA.

In their website, LPGMA presents itself as an LPG marketers association that was organized in order that its members will have a common voice and representation on issues that affect the industry.  But the big question here is, whose interests come first for LPGMA?

The National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) proposal to stop government regulatory agencies like the National Food Authority (NFA) and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for instance, from being regulators and competitors at the same time is a very noble plan. After all, how can these agencies regulate with total impartiality when they are also competitors?

And if NEDA is concerned about the impact of allowing regulators to compete in the industry they regulate, would it not be more worrisome for consumers if a group of traders that practically control the supply of every household’s basic need such as LPG, be granted Congressional representation?

Would this not be worse than a regulator being a competitor at the same time?  This brings us back to the question on whose interests would come first for LPGMA, as a member of the House of Representatives. Perhaps, these are question which consumers should try to find its answers as the 2019 mid-term election nears.

And in closing, I would like to pay tribute to an honorable person who looks at public service from the point of view of the people he serves and has transcended party politics with his good governance.

Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi is a person who would uphold public/consumer interest above anything else. As Chairman of the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC), Cusi asserted his commitment for fair play and good governance when assured its Board that he will not recommend or  even allow anyone to use his name in matters that would affect the independence of PEMC from government intervention. I sit as one of the members of the PEMC Board representing the private sector. Secretary Cusi, may you have many more years in public service.

Turning Points 2018
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