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PCC targets to finish six cartel cases by end-2022 

By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) is aiming to finish by the end of 2022 the investigation of six cases related to cartels or abuse of dominant position.

According to the PCC, it is targeting within the year to rule on all competition cases submitted for decision, including the six cartel cases, apart from investigations that have been pending for at least two years.

“[We are targeting] for six statements of objections or show-cause orders or some form of remedy or conclusion to any investigation that is ongoing, whether two years old or more, or less than two years, to be concluded. Six cases [are] to be concluded before the end of the year,” PCC Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Chairperson Johannes Benjamin R. Bernabe told reporters during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

Mr. Bernabe disclosed that the PCC has a two-year limit that is internally imposed when it comes to the investigation of cases. However, he said that there are exceptions to the limit due to difficulties experienced during the investigation such as challenges in finding evidence.

“[We want] to make sure that whatever cases that are still pending before the enforcement office, particularly those which have been ongoing for more than two years in terms of investigation will be concluded by our enforcement office either by termination or archiving, by filing statements of objections when warranted, or pursuing some form of non-adversarial remedies to put a stop to any anti-competitive practice,” Mr. Bernabe said.

Mr. Bernabe became the PCC’s top official after former PCC chairperson Arsenio M. Balisacan was tapped by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. as the new Socioeconomic Planning secretary.

As a result, Mr. Bernabe will serve the remaining term of Mr. Balisacan in the PCC, which is until the first week of January next year.

According to Mr. Bernabe, the PCC’s enforcement office has four cases currently under investigation.

“Right now, there are four statements of objections arising from investigation by our enforcement office before the commission for our final ruling. These involve various sectors ranging from tourism, medical services, trade associations, and property development arrangements with internet service providers (ISPs),” he said.

“We would like to see that all these cases being investigated by the enforcement office are concluded one way or another,” he added.

Aside from the conclusion of cases, the PCC is also eyeing to initiate two motu proprio un-notified or anti-competitive merger cases, codify all PCC rules and procedures, and roll out the national competition policy in the public sector.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bernabe said that there will be a revision in the thresholds for the compulsory notification of mergers and acquisition (M&A) deals to go under the PCC’s review.

Currently, there is an increased threshold of less than P50 billion as provided under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II). The law is set to expire in September this year.

Once the law expires, firms whose parent company assets exceed P6 billion and whose M&A transactions exceed P2.4 billion will once again be required to notify the PCC.

“Given the adjustment in the inflation rates and the adjustment of other economic indicators, you may see that these thresholds that we applied prior to Bayanihan II will be revised as well,” Mr. Bernabe said.

However, Mr. Bernabe said that the PCC has yet to determine the final adjusted thresholds, adding that the commission will “come up with the appropriate computation closer to September.”

“We normally make these adjustments in March of the calendar year. In March of this year, we didn’t really make an estimation because we thought that it would be more appropriate to compute that threshold come September,” Mr. Bernabe said.

“We will have to reckon in a couple of months what these new thresholds will be. There are adjustments on the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) growth from the previous year. As you know, because of various geopolitical factors, because of the pandemic, this has fluctuated with some degree of unpredictability,” he added.

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