By Jo Ann Sablad, August 12 2018; SunStar Cagayan de Oro

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AN executive official of Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on Thursday, August 9, said that they have not found any competition issues after reviewing the alleged anti-competitive agreements between the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD), Metro Pacific Water Investments Corporation (Metropac) and Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. (Rio Verde).

According to PCC executive director Kenneth Tanate, the result of their preliminary inquiry shows no competition issues even after they reviewed the parties’ joint venture agreements, bulk water supply agreement, and the process of disagreement.

“With regards to the COWD, before we received a verified complaint last December and we conducted a preliminary inquiry but it was reviewed by our enforcement office and the findings is that, we did not find any competition issues on that complaint because the focus is competition complaints,” Tanate said.

“So we reviewed the joint venture agreement, the bulk water supply agreement, and the process of disagreement,” he added.

Tanate said the allegation was that there was a “collusion to increase the prices,” however, they found out that the price of water was “in terms of reference in the agreement during the processing of joint venture agreement.”

“The joint venture agreement followed the Neda (National Economic and Development Authority) guidelines. With regard to that guidelines, parang wala namang problema (there seems to be no problem),” he said.

It can be recalled that back in February 21, PCC’s assistant director for Competition Enforcement Office Ferdinand Redulla invited the complainants lawyer James Judith, Councilors Reuben Roa Daba, Teodulfo Lao Jr., and Enrico Salcedo for a meeting at the PCC office in Manila to discuss about the local officials’ complaint on the supposed cartelization of the local water industry.

In its notice of resolution on April 17, PCC’s Competition Enforcement Office Director Orlando Polinar said it has resolved to close the inquiry for lack of reasonable ground to conduct a full administrative investigation on the COWD, Metropac and Rio Verde.

“So since yung focus lang ni PCC ay competition tapos wala kaming nakitang competition issues, so clinose namin yung (Since there was no competition issue found, we closed the) preliminary inquiry. But it does not prevent us in the future to open that case again if there are new information on that issue,” Tanate said.

“So maybe, that agreement or that process could have violated other laws, government laws, but in competition, wala kami nakitang (we did not see any) violation,” he added.

PCC is a newly constituted independent quasi-judicial body mandated to implement the national competition policy, and enforce the Philippine Competition Act or Republic Act 10667, which serves as the primary competition law in the Philippines for promoting and protecting market competition.