The Phillippines’ comprehensive new competition law regime is one step closer reality, with the Fair Competition Act recently passed by Congress and awaiting President Benigno Aquino III’s sign-off.

A development more than 20 years in the making, the sweeping reforms will implement formal competition safeguards against anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominance and introduce a merger control regime. The Competition Commission will be established as the principle competition law regulator and enforcer.

The new law will create criminal offences for entities which enter anti-competitive agreements or abuse a dominant position, with board members found guilty facing imprisonment for up to seven years and separate financial penalties.

Entities can be liable for criminal penalties up to 250 million pesos (approximately AUD 7.1 million) for each offence.

The Commission may also impose civil penalties up to 250 million pesos (approximately AUD 7.1 million) for entering an anti-competitive agreement, abuse of a dominant market position, failure properly notify the Commission, or engaging in a prohibited, non-exempt merger or acquisition. There will also be  fines up to 100 million pesos (approximately AUD 2.9 million) for implementing unfair business practices for the first time or 250 million pesos (approximately AUD 7.1million) for a second offence.

The Philippines is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has a key objective for each member state to have a competition policy by 2015. The Philippines is one of the outstanding developing nations to introduce comprehensive competitions laws, but may not be for long.