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[MANILA] Philippine President Benigno Aquino signed into law on Tuesday landmark fair trade legislation aimed at curbing cartels, price fixing and other forms of anti-competitive practices, which have long stifled economic growth.
The Philippine Competition law, which took two decades for Congress to enact, will seek to prevent large companies monopolising business and setting up cartels, manipulating and distorting market prices and will promote free and fair trade.
It will also will create a competition commission, an independent body that will regulate and rule on cases involving practices such as anti-competitive acts, cartels and price manipulation.
"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," Mr Aquino said in a speech during the signing of the fair trade law. "With this legislation, we are promoting market competition. Everyone will benefit from this law and will end up as winners."
The commission will be able to impose fines of up to 250 million pesos (S$7.56 million) and courts could impose jail terms from two to seven years to company officers and directors found guilty of unfair practices.
Trade officials have said the new law will usher in an era where micro, small and medium-sized enterprises can compete with large and multinational firms ahead of the Asean economic integration.
The economies of the 10-member Southeast Asian states will start integration at the end of 2015, bringing down duties and non-tariff barriers to create a single market to promote trade and investment.
Mr Aquino also signed into law the foreign ships co-loading act to reduce logistics costs for producers, create a more efficient import and export system and lower consumer goods prices. The law will also help in decongesting ports in the country.