MANILA (UPDATE) - President Aquino has signed into law the Fair Competition Act, a landmark fair trade legislation aimed at curbing cartels, price manipulation and other forms of anti-competitive practices.
The new law penalizes all forms of anti-competitive agreements and abuse to control or manipulate prices of products. It also prevents companies from using illegal methods to kill competition.
The law also creates a Philippine Competition Commission to police companies that attempt to fix prices.
The commission, which will be composed of a chairperson and four commissioners, will be able to impose fines of up to P250 million.
Courts could also impose jail terms from two to seven years to company officers and directors found guilty of unfair practices.
Senator Bam Aquino, co-author and principal sponsor of the measure, said the law aims to enhance competition to bring down prices and improve quality of products.
The President, meanwhile, said consumers as well as small and large businesses will benefit from the new law.
"At last, small and big business can now compete to come up with quality products at the most reasonable price instead of under the table deals and political connections," Aquino said.
"With this legislation, we are promoting market competition. Everyone will benefit from this law and will end up as winners," he added.
Trade officials have also said that the new law will usher in an era where micro, small and medium-sized enterprises can compete with large and multinational firms ahead of ASEAN economic integration in 2016.
The measure had been pending in Congress for the last 24 years, and only hurdled the bicameral conference committee on July 10.
The President also signed an amendment to the Cabotage Law, which aims to lower the transportation cost for the agriculture sector as well as other industries.
The new laws are expected to bring in more investments and stimulate economic activity in the country. -- Reports from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News; Reuters