BENEFITS FOR SARS-FREE RP

Manila, April 4, 2003 -- The epidemic sweeping across Asia could boost Philippine tourism so long as the country remains SARS-free, Socio-economic planning secretary Romulo Neri said.

Tourists planning to go to Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore might change plans and visit RP instead for fear of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

"There are no indications that tourists are avoiding us. There are tourists that may come to Asia but may end up avoiding Hong Kong and China. We could be the alternative travel destination," he said.

Neri said the downscaling of Southeast Asian economic growth prospects by investment bank Morgan Stanley because of SARS is unwarranted given that not all Asian countries are affected.

"Morgan Stanley put all of us in one lump sum. It should do a little more dis-aggregation of their analysis. They should do a little hard work," he said.

The investment bank cited that the effects of the SARS on Southeast Asian economies could be as severe as the phenomenal Asian crisis in 1997 that it revised down economic expectations from the region especially Hong Kong and Singapore.





Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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