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Editha Hechanova, Managing partner

Managing partner Editha Hechanova explains how the firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Hechanova Bugay Vilchez & Andaya-Racadio from your competitors?

We have a strong intellectual property law practice as supported by our affiliated firm Hechanova & Co., Inc. which does the prosecution and litigation support services, which is further enhanced by the other fields of law that the firm is engaged in such as taxation, corporate law, immigration and employment, and vice-versa, hence, in the area of commercial transactions, we are able to provide a more comprehensive advise to our clients.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

We see more growth in the fields of intellectual property law, corporate law and taxation. The Philippines has been removed from the USTR 301 list, but still has to exert more efforts in combating anti-counterfeiting, and with President Duterte’s administration taking a more balanced position in its foreign relations policy, and crackdown on corruption, we anticipate more activities in the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Philippines has just implemented its competition law, and we see many changes that would occur in business practices for compliance with its regulations. The planned tax reforms, easier rules for compliance with business registration requirements are expected to encourage the establishment of micro, small and medium sized businesses which drive the Philippine economy.

What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?

We are investing more in training our people to enhance not only their technical capabilities but also their level of social awareness, allowing them to share their expertise with other members of the firm, so that we could improve the delivery of our services to our clients: quick, accurate, meaningful and economical response to the needs of the clients.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

We see technology as both enhancing and challenging in providing our services to the client. Technology allows us access to various tools which enhance our services, but also demands awareness of risks in the matters relating to privacy and ethical concerns.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Just in the last few months, our advice was sought by Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd. and Xerox Corporation which were concerned about the proliferation of unauthorized business name registrations in the Philippines containing its famous trademark “XEROX”. For over seven years, they have tried sending cease and desist letters, publishing warning notices, and about to file formal complaints against these unauthorized users. As of September, 2016, there were about over 400 registered business names of small and medium-sized businesses, with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with the mark “XEROX” without its consent, and was fearful that the term would be genericised. Suing these 400 unauthorized users would certainly be a huge expense. We helped said client by explaining the policies, organization structure, rules and regulations of the DTI; discussions with the DTI Legal Services officials on the implementation of its rules; and arranging the meeting between the Japanese representatives of Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd., Xerox Corp.with said DTI representatives. The DTI Legal Services consulted the relevant bureaus within the DTI on the “XEROX” issue.

In said meeting, the DTI Business Name Registration Director committed to ensure that applicants with proposed business name which has “XEROX” in it will not be accepted, and to send notices to those already with registration reminding them that they should not use the term “XEROX” without the consent of its owner, and encouraged them to voluntarily correct their business name registrations at no cost. Said notices have just been sent. A business name registration has a term of five years. The client is aware that the problem could not be solved immediately, but a gradual reduction of said business name registrations within the next five years or so appears to be a move in the right direction of protecting the mark “XEROX”, without heavy spending for litigation expenses, which option is still open.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms - where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

Certainly, clients look for stability, but we believe that their main concern would be the expertise in the fields of law that affect them which would be central to whatever business or non-business strategies they may have. We expect that within three years we would have offices in two major cities in the Philippines, and some of our lawyers qualified to practice in other Asian jurisdictions, if allowed.

Legal Developments in Philippines

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  • ALB: “Enforcement Update: Philippine Competition Act”

    The August 2017 issue of the Asian Legal Business (ALB)  includes a Philippine regional update by SyCipLaw partner  Arlene M. Maneja entitled, “Enforcement Update: Philippine Competition Act”. The article summarizes the administrative, civil and criminal penalties that apply to companies that have yet to comply with the Philippine Competition Act (PCA). The transitional clause of the PCA to enable parties to renegotiate agreements or restructure their businesses to comply with the law expired on August 7, 2017.
  • CPO: “Philippines: To Be or Not To Be a Data Protection Officer (DPO)”

    Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) Magazine, an online publication owned by Data Privacy Asia, featured an article by SyCipLaw partner Rose Marie M. King-Dominguez . Entitled “Philippines: To Be or Not To Be a Data Protection Officer (DPO) ”, the article discusses the qualifications and responsibilities of a DPO as outlined in the Philippine Data Privacy Act of 2012. It also outlines difficulties companies may experience in the appointment of a DPO.
  • ALB: “Guidelines on Related Party Transactions for Insurers in the Philippines”

    The July 2017 issue of the Asian Legal Business (ALB) includes a Philippine regional update by SyCipLaw partner Hiyasmin H. Lapitan and associate Jo Margarette W. Remollo entitled, “Guidelines on Related Party Transactions for Insurers in the Philippines ”. The article summarizes the Insurance Commission’s compliance guidelines on related party transactions, as set out in Insurance Circular Letter No. 2017-29. The Circular covers insurers, reinsurers, branch offices of foreign insurers, mutual benefit associations, pre-need companies, and health maintenance organizations and their intermediaries.
  • Philippines Chapter in The Tax Disputes and Litigation Review - Edition 5

    The Philippines section of The Tax Disputes and Litigation Review - Edition 5 contains information on commencing disputes, including national and local taxes; courts and tribunals; penalties and remedies; tax claims, including recovering overpaid taxes, challenging administrative decisions, and claimants; costs; alternative dispute resolution; anti-avoidance; double taxation treaties; areas of focus; and outlook and conclusions. The section was contributed by SyCipLaw partner  Carina C. Laforteza  with support from associate  Mark Xavier D. Oyales .
  • IFLR: “Philippines: Acquiring insurance brokers”

    The April issue of the International Financial Law Review (IFLR) includes an international briefing article by SyCipLaw partner  Hiyasmin H. Lapitan  entitled “Philippines: Acquiring insurance brokers”. The article discusses the new requirement by the Philippine Insurance Commission (IC) for advance approval to acquire a stake in a Philippine corporation that is licensed as an insurance broker or reinsurance broker. This requirement is noted in the IC’s circular letter number 2017-09 dated February 14, 2017, which prescribes guidelines on the documentation requirements for acquiring a domestic insurance or reinsurance broker.
  • SyCipLaw Tax Bulletin: Philippine BIR Rules on Proper Tax Treatment of Passed-on Gross Receipts Tax

    On June 13, 2016, the then Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 62-2016 purporting to clarify the proper tax treatment of percentage tax or gross receipts tax (GRT) due on transactions covered by Sections 1211 and 1222 of the Tax Code which are shifted through contractual stipulations to borrowers/customers/clients (“passed-on” GRT). Banks, non-bank financial intermediaries performing quasi-banking functions are subject to GRT under Section 121 while financing companies and other financial intermediaries not performing quasi-banking functions are subject to GRT under Section 122. The effectivity of this circular was suspended on July 1, 2016 by the new Commissioner of Internal Revenue. However, on November 15, 2016, the suspension was lifted by RMC No. 127-2016 rendering RMC No. 62-2016 effective immediately.
  • Philippine Court of Appeals Denies Issuance of Environmental Protection Order Against Mining Company

    In a decision issued on March 8, 2017, the Philippine Court of Appeals (CA) denied the petition by NGO Ang Aroroy ay Alagaan, Inc. and certain individuals, for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan against Filminera Resources Corporation, and its directors and officers. The petitioners have claimed that Filminera, which operates in the Philippine province of Masbate, had been causing environmental damage in the conduct of its mining operations in violation of local law, and that a writ of kalikasan should be issued.
  • SyCipLaw TMT Bulletin: Philippine Central Bank Issues New FinTech Rules

    The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) (the Philippine Central Bank) has issued two new circulars that will be of interest to companies engaged in remittance services, e-money, digital currency, and other fintech businesses. Both circulars amend portions of the BSP Manual of Regulations for Non-Bank Financial Institutions.
  • IFLR: “Philippines: Foreign equity ownership decision”

    The March issue of the International Financial Law Review ( IFLR ) includes an international briefing article by SyCipLaw partner  Jose Florante M. Pamfilo  entitled “Philippines: Foreign equity ownership decision”. The article discusses the Philippine Supreme Court decision on the case of Roy v. Herbosa (GR no. 207246) to invalidate the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Memorandum Circular no. 8-2013 (MC 8-2013) on the guidelines on compliance with the Filipino-foreign ownership requirements prescribed in the Philippine Constitution and/or existing laws by corporations engaged in nationalized and partly nationalized activities.
  • Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All

    The World Bank Group has released its Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All report. This is the 14th in an annual series of reports providing objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement in 190 economies. The report focuses on measuring regulations affecting 11 areas: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, and labor market regulation.