Constitutional Reforms  


Enrile urges immediate approval of anti-trust law to protect
consumers from greedy oil companies

Citing reports that oil companies have been flexing their muscles in an attempt to control the sale of much needed gasoline, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile called on the leadership of the Lower House to fast-track the passage of Senate Bill No. 3197, otherwise known as “The Competition Act of 2009.”

“For the longest time, oil companies have had a heavy hand in using world market prices as a reason to hike fuel prices. These oil companies are quick to respond to upward price adjustments, but when price of crude is down, it is not equally reflected in the pump prices. This cartel-like behavior is a clear violation of the anti-trust bill which the Senate already approved on third reading,” Enrile said.

“The bill prohibits those engaged in business from monopolizing and abusing their market power through price fixing and price discrimination, bid rigging, limitation and control of markets, agreement to limit and or control markets, and tie-in arrangements, among others” Enrile added.

In reaction to former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Solita Monsod’s comments that the Oil Deregulation Law has prevented oil companies from forming cartels and overpricing gasoline, Enrile argued, “to say that there is no monopoly on the prices of fuel is to turn a blind eye on the recent attempts of oil companies to threaten the government with a shut-down of services if the President’s EO 839 was not lifted.”

Enrile lamented the fact that prices of oil started to go up immediately after the executive order was withdrawn. “The government should force the oil companies to open and make public their books to check whether there is overpricing or not,” he stressed.

“This is precisely the reason why we need to pass an anti-trust law. Hopefully the legislators in the House of Representatives will realize this very urgent need, pass their version of the bill, and after the budget deliberations, we can sit down and work on this important piece of legislation” Enrile said.

“We cannot allow companies, be they oil, pharmaceuticals, or other entities, to unjustly manipulate prices. Denying Filipinos access to cheaper but quality products is a clear violation of the law, and nobody, multinational or otherwise, must be allowed to withhold these in the guise of unfair competition,” Enrile stated.

Enrile further explained that in the case of pharmaceuticals, the claim of these companies that they are losing business because of the proliferation of cheaper medicines is unacceptable and without basis. He assured the people that the Senate will look into unfair trade practices of these companies.

Enrile said Senate Bill No. 3197 will provide protection to consumers against price manipulators, considering the fact that the country is experiencing economic uncertainty brought about by the recent calamities.

"We definitely need to enact an anti-trust measure. In fact, the adoption of a competition policy has long been included in the Medium-Term Development Plan for 2004 - 2010 to create a competitive environment not only to ensure efficiency among big business firms and corporations, but to protect small businesses as well which in the end will redound to the benefit of the consuming public," Enrile said.

“Although the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines protects companies from patent infringement, we need to foster an environment that is conducive for the development of micro, small and medium enterprises,” Enrile explained further.

However, he warned against the use of intellectual property rights to justify violations of the proposed measure.

The bill, which was originally filed by Enrile in June 2007 during the 14th Congress, provides that its implementation shall be without prejudice to the rights, liabilities and remedies under which a person or firm may be entitled to under Republic Act No. 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code.