Large multinational companies or small businesses needing collaborative ways to handle disputes especially during this pandemic are encouraged to resort to mediation, a cost-efficient process to resolve differences speedily without going to trial.
“You know that this Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) crisis has really disrupted business. There have been breaches in contractual obligations, there have been non-performance of duties, disruptions in supply chains, massive unemployment, (and) hemorrhaging business industries especially that of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises),” said lawyer Myra Angeli Gallardo-Batungbakal, senior vice president at National Center for Mediation (NCM).
Gallardo-Batungbakal said disputes arising particularly from the repercussions of the pandemic can be resolved in one to two sittings provided both parties are eager to reach a settlement of their differences.
“If you bring your dispute to mediation and the mediator tries to have an amicable settlement, I think it would be a ‘win-win’ situation for both parties and who knows that will conserve business relationships. The business can go on and thrive even more,” she said.
“Let us remember that in business, the longer the dispute stays, the more losses the business suffers,” she added.
Gallardo-Batungbakal said mediated settlement agreement is deposited in court. “So that if one party breaches, the court can act on it,” she said.
Gallardo-Batungbakal said filing fees are based on the amount of claims while attorney fees depend on services rendered, assuring having “very reasonable and competitive rates.”
She advised particularly local exporters to place a mediation clause in their contracts with foreigners that both parties agree to bring first to mediation in the Philippines when any dispute arises.
Gallardo-Batungbakal said there are mediation centers globally, including those in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Switzerland, and London, among others.
“I want you all to be informed that mediation is a global trend now,” she said. “(But) why go to Singapore, or Hong Kong, Malaysia, London, Spain, and spend thousands of US dollars or pounds when you can just meet here. We have our office at the PCCI (Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc.)”
Aside from business disputes, Gallardo-Batungbakal said the NCM handles various types of disputes, except for example the civil status of persons.
“Because we are widening our reach, we are expanding so we are not just limiting ourselves to business,” she said.
NMC, a brainchild of PCCI, currently has 79 mediators all over the country. It handled 700 to 800 cases in a span of 11 years prior to Covid-19 crisis.
One may file a complaint with the NCM main office at PCCI in McKinley Hills, Taguig City, or with NCM regional offices, or any of the convenor organizations.
“We do not conduct as of now onsite hearings because we want to observe in the strictest sense our health protocols issued by no less than the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) so we do online mediation… Currently, we are using the zoom platform as the most convenient way of doing mediation,” Gallardo-Batungbakal added.