MANILA - The Philippine economy is hampered by monopolies, duopolies, and oligopolies in key markets, the World Bank said in a study presented on Monday.
The multilateral lender said the Philippine economy is "more concentrated" than other economies in the region and that fostering fair market competition in key sectors can boost economic growth.
Among the sectors that need to see more competition are electricity, telecommunications, and transport.
Letting more players enter these industries can improve services and generate higher-paying jobs, and hasten poverty reduction, the World Bank said.
“The Philippines has adopted key reforms to foster competition but slow implementation continues to hinder the potential benefits of these reforms to consumers, keeping prices high and choices limited,” said World Bank senior economist Graciela Murciego.
Philippine electricity costs are high, and capacity is limited, said the multilateral lender.
"This is largely due to the slow implementation of reforms, such as the open access provisions and retail competition, under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001," the World Bank said.
It also pointed out that limitations on foreign direct investments are preventing the development of electricity infrastructure.
The World Bank also said the cost of mobile phone services in the Philippines is the highest in East Asia, and four times higher than the average price in rich countries.
"Restrictions in transport sectors, particularly cabotage rules and limits to foreign participation, impairs logistics in the Philippines, creating bottlenecks," the bank said.
Lack of competition, the bank said, is one of the main reasons why domestic shipping in the Philippines is more expensive than in Malaysia or Indonesia.
Philippine Competition Commission Chairman Arsenio Balisacan, meanwhile, said that policy reforms are underway.
The agency said it is finalizing the National Competition Policy (NCP), an executive order that lays out a comprehensive framework that steers regulations and administrative procedures to promote free and fair market competition.
“We just need to give the Cabinet more details. Medyo nagkulang lang ng appreciation but we are optimistic this will be passed.”
The competition policy, Balisacan said, will lead to the effective enforcement of the Philippine Competition Act, pro-competitive government regulations, and the internalization of the principle of competitive neutrality.
Balisacan explained that if the NCP is executed, all government agencies will effectively be directed by President Rodrigo Duterte to assess and remedy competition-related issues.
“Ang habol din namin dito yung ma-continue yung policy kahit tapos na itong administration.”
(We want the policy to be continued beyond this administration.)
-- With a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News