House passes 3 key economic bills

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the landmark Fair Competition Act the bill amending the Cabotage Law and the proposed Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act. gFile photo

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading three key economic bills, including one that sets a fair competition policy to curb monopolies and unfair business practices.

Approved Tuesday night were the landmark Fair Competition Act the bill amending the Cabotage Law and the proposed Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act.

The three bills are part of the list of priority measures of the House and the Senate.

The fair competition bill, principally authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., seeks to prevent monopolies and protect the economy from unfair competition practices.

Belmonte said the measure has direct benefits for ordinary Filipinos as it would boost the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI).

He said the measure would foster fair competition that will result to better products and services aswell as lower costs that would benefit ordinary folks.

The bill seeks to establish a National Competition Policy that will encourage fair and free economic competition by prohibiting the abuse of market dominant positions, and the excessive concentration of economic power by regulating improper concerted acts and unfair business practices.

The bill provides for the creation of a Philippine Competition Commission to be under the Office of the President and shall implement the policy.

Likewise, it prohibits all unfair methods of competition as well as unfair deceptive trade or business practice which have the object or effect of unreasonably and substantially preventing, restricting or lessening competition.

The bill also provides for review of mergers and acquisitions by the commission.

The Cabotage Bill seeks to allow the entry and movement of foreign cargo vessels between ports within the country.

It also aims to lower the cost of shipping containerized export cargoes from Philippine ports to international ports and containerized import cargoes from international ports, the authors said.

The bill, which applies only to foreign vessels carrying containers, has long been pushed by various business groups as well as by some government agencies, including the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

Under the bill, a foreign vessel arriving from a port abroad shall be allowed to carry container vans or cargos to its domestic port of final destination, after being cleared at the port of entry.

Such vessels shall be allowed to carry container vans or cargos by another foreign vessel calling at the same port of entry to the local port of final destination.

For a foreign vessel departing a port in the country through another local port, shall be allowed to carry foreign container vans or cargo intended for export.

It shall also be allowed to carry foreign container vans or cargos by another foreign vessel through a domestic transshipment port and transferred at thesaid port to its foreign port of final destination.

The Archipelagic Sea Lanes Bill seeks to allow the “continuous, expeditious, and unobstructed transit” for vessels engaged in economic trade with the Philippines and neighboring countries.

Under the bill, foreign ships and aircraft passing through Philippine territory are allowed traverse not more than 25 nautical miles to either side of the axisline of the sea lane, or “shall not navigate closer to the coast more than 10 percent of the distance between the nearest points on island bordering the sea lane.”

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