Is competition crucial for economic recovery in the Covid-19 crisis?
By Atty. Macario R. De Claro, Jr., CPA
August 12, 2020


This year, we have witnessed hard times dawning upon us due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of this virus, our economy has suffered a setback, affecting every sector of society, men and women, rich and poor, and young and old alike.

More than a quarter of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises have permanently closed, as others try to survive on limited operations. More than 100,000 workers have lost their jobs, which they rely on to feed their families.

The Philippine economy has slipped into recession for the first time in three decades. In second-quarter estimates released last week, household consumption, gross capital formation, and exports took a turn for the worse due to the continued imposition of community quarantine. While the government has exerted efforts to revive the economy and help the masses, focusing assistance on the hardest-hit by providing limited financial assistance to low-income groups and investing in labor, services, and agriculture, such efforts may not be enough to address the emergency health situation due to limited resources.

Does competition have a role in all of this? Yes, and it is crucial.

The overarching mandate of the Philippine Competition Commission, in both good times and bad, is to protect the competitive process that keeps markets efficient and able to deliver the best outcomes to all—low prices, high quality goods and services, and dynamic innovation. To this end, the PCC wields a few tools, including investigative powers and quasi-judicial functions that it uses to uncover and prosecute anti-competitive behavior and to implement merger control.

We have entered this era of uncertainty on a strong footing, with a stable macroeconomic environment validated by investment-grade credit ratings. But given our current circumstances, consumers need access to adequate and affordable food and basic services like water and electricity, at the very least, as well as telecommunications, health care, and other services, if they are to survive this pandemic in good shape. Thus, it is important that we play on our strengths, which entail maintaining a business-friendly environment and ensuring consumer protection against possible abuses of large businesses that could take advantage of the current situation.

Notwithstanding the restrictions on some of the functions of government agencies on account of the quarantine regulations, the PCC was quick to adopt digital processes that streamline the delivery of its services and, at the same time, safeguard the health and well-being of its clients and staff. Being the antitrust regulator, the PCC complements whole-of-government efforts in improving the ease of doing business by ensuring that no dominant player in any market can arbitrarily erect barriers against new or small entrants. Neither can a dominant business, under PCC’s watch, “corner a market” by taking advantage of fearful and confused customers and competitors. The PCC seeks to ensure regularity in bidding and independent price setting in all industries. These processes are sacred, since they ensure that infrastructure projects, government procurement, and even the responsible extraction of our rich natural resources are carried out to the advantage of every Filipino.

As our country heals and the economy recovers, albeit slowly, the competitive process is crucial in sectors that support industry, such as telecommunications, electricity, transportation, and construction. Competition also matters in retail, food production, and agriculture. Overall, robust competition can invigorate rural development and the distribution of economic activities and opportunities nationwide.

As competition improves every sector of the economy, as we believe it does and will, each one of us has a role to play. President Rodrigo R. Duterte, during his penultimate State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2020, echoed the words of former President Ramon Magsaysay and said that in these troubled times we need men to be like our great heroes, to act courageously in facing the uncertain future, to be dedicated to our great nation’s development, to be capable and industrious in our work, and to be compassionate in serving the needy.

Heeding our President’s call to action, we, the men and women of PCC, strive to foster a level playing field that is key to rekindling the vibrancy of business and the economy, ensuring every Filipino is rewarded for all his sacrifices by reaping the fruits of competition in our markets.


Commissioner Macario R. de Claro Jr. is a CPA lawyer who has worked in companies in the fields of manufacturing, mining, telecommunications, real estate, and banking and finance prior to his appointment to the Philippine Competition Commission. A litigation and corporate lawyer, he once served as legal consultant to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He graduated from the De La Salle College with a BS in Commerce, Major in Accounting and earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Ateneo de Davao Law School.  

(Originally published on Business Mirror’s Competition Matters column on August 12, 2020 here.)