It's probably not something that Santa Claus can deliver with his sleigh but car companies, particularly those belonging to the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID), are hoping this season will bring the beginning of a level playing field in the Philippine automotive market.
"We are committed to create a level playing field of competition for all our members," said Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, AVID president and chief executive of Hyundai Asia Resources (HARI) at the Thought Leadership Forum held by the industry group. "This year, we continue our efforts by educating the Filipino on the importance of a comprehensive competition policy. We cannot overstress how important this will be, not just to the automotive sector, but also to the whole Philippine industry. By being a champion of fair competition, the Philippines accepts the challenge to innovate and become a force on the international arena."
Perez-Agudo cited how some car manufacturers and assemblers have enjoyed the protection of the government for far too long.
"They've already been at it for over 20 years. They aren't an 'infant' industry anymore," stressed Perez-Agudo. "This kind of protectionism has to come to an end. That's why we’re pushing for free competition since it provides for a favorable investment climate. After all, how can we compete if we're being charged a 20 to 30 percent tariff while the others have zero percent tariff?"
Fortunately, some members from the House of Representatives are sympathetic, not just to the car importers and distributors that can't compete with the established manufacturers and assemblers, but to all industries that give an unfavorable advantage to a few players to the detriment of the rest. Enter House Bill 4835, co- authored by Rep. Tomas Apacible. It consolidates 12 different bills that cover competition, monopolies and cartels into a comprehensive one. Apacible, though, cited that the bill has been stuck and is waiting for a secondary reading at the plenary session despite it being noted as a landmark legislature by President Benigno Aquino III.
"If there's a level playing field, it provides consumers with more choices, better prices and better quality," added Apacible.
House Bill 4835, otherwise known as the Philippine Fair Competition Act of 2011, calls for the creation of the Philippine Fair Competition Commission, an independent body that shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over anti-competitive agreements, the abuse perpetrated by those in the dominant position and to prohibit mergers and the like that may create a monopoly.
"We believe in creating an environment of innovation as a platform for the sustainability of the automotive industry," Perez-Agudo said. "As we move towards a globalized world economy, barriers to competition must be taken down and not reinforced. The potential to grow in an open and competitive market environment should be encouraged. We cannot rely on the government alone. We must do our part to ensure that the automotive industry is constantly moving forward."