The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on Friday issued rules for the exemption of joint venture projects cleared by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) from compulsory merger notification.

The antitrust body detailed in a memorandum circular the application procedures for the exemption of joint venture projects from the required merger notification.

In a statement, PCC Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan said: “The PCC has been continuously streamlining its processes in support of the government’s push to ease doing business.”

“Significantly, PCC’s issuance of these rules is aligned with the government’s relief, recovery and resiliency efforts, which direct the speedy roll-out of critical infrastructure projects in response to the current crisis,” he added.

The competition authority noted that the joint venture guidelines of NEDA cover all agreements between private entities and government-owned or -controlled corporations, government corporate entities, government instrumentalities with corporate powers, government financial institutions, and state universities and colleges.

“Under the circular, PCC will conduct a competitive assessment of the joint venture project in parallel with the approval process of the implementing agency or NEDA’s Investment Coordination Committee. This will expedite the rollout of key development projects that would otherwise undergo the regular merger review only after they have been awarded to the private sector proponent,” the commission said.

“This, in effect, exempts the government agency and the private entity from notifying the commission of the joint venture upon signing of a definitive agreement,” it added.

The commission said further that the government agency may apply for a certificate of project exemption on behalf of the prospective bidders or proponents.

The commission said it would provide inputs on the project documents and assess how the joint venture project might affect competition in the relevant markets.

“Should competition concerns arise in the review, PCC may require the prospective bidders to undertake specific commitments to address them,” it said.

If the implementing agency adopts the commission’s inputs in the final project documents, it will issue a certificate of project exemption in favor of the prospective winning private sector participant, it added.

“Failure to follow the requirements under the circular, the government agency and the winning private sector participant are required to file their notifications under the regular merger review process,” the competition authority said.

By Arjay L. Balinbin