Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

Whistle-Blowers Are Philippines' Latest Weapon Against Cartels

  • Antitrust body to energize hunt for price-fixing, collusion
  • Power, cement sectors to be scrutinized on collusion complaint

The Philippines is turning to whistle-blowers to energize its struggling campaign against cartels.

The Philippine Competition Commission, or PCC, will recruit whistle-blowers to report anti-competitive practices like price-fixing, Chairman Arsenio Balisacan said in an interview. The antitrust body is also investigating the power generation and cement industries following complaints of alleged collusion among the sectors’ few players, he said. He declined to elaborate, citing the sensitivity of the issue.

“We need to coordinate, cooperate and collaborate,” Balisacan said on Wednesday in Manila. The PCC plans to grant individuals immunity from prosecution and exempt them from fines in exchange for information on fixing prices and imposing barriers to entry, he said.

Balisacan, the former economic planning secretary, is taking on the task of dismantling anti-competitive practices in the Philippines, which the World Bank has outlined as among the country’s key challenges. Southeast Asia’s youngest antitrust body is struggling as it faces off against wealthy, politically-connected families that dominate the business landscape.

Telecom Sale

The commission has been barred by a court from reviewing the sale of San Miguel Corp.’s telecommunication assets. The antitrust body in April asked the Supreme Court to lift the injunction against the review.

The extent of the amnesty for whistle-blowers will depend on data and documents provided and the timing of reporting, Balisacan said. Individuals who disclose information during an ongoing investigation will receive less of a reprieve than those flagging details at the onset.

Possible anti-competitive practices in shipping, toll operations, telecommunications, and agriculture will be the focus in the coming months, Balisacan said.

“We’re hoping that businesses will recognize and render respect to the competition authority by complying with the law instead of challenging our acts,” he said. “They should recognize that it’s in the interest of everyone.”

— With assistance by Cecilia Yap, and Ditas B Lopez

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