MANILA, OCTOBER 31, 2003  (STAR) The government "has the will and the means" to repay its P3.158-trillion debts as long the economy grows amid the latest political turmoil rocking the country, President Arroyo said yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo gave the reassurances after the Department of Finance (DOF) reported out the total debt stocks of the government have ballooned by as much as 17.2 percent as of August this year from the P2.7 trillion level a year ago.

In a statement, Mrs. Arroyo sought to allay fears and apprehensions over the country’s worsening indebtedness primarily blamed on the government’s financing its budgetary deficit through heavy borrowing from domestic and foreign sources.

While the country’s economic fundamentals remain strong, Mrs. Arroyo pointed out political instability will have adverse effects.

"Policies and programs are in place to achieve these objectives but we need to stand on a stable political base," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo was apparently alluding to the latest political controversy between Congress and the Supreme Court over the impeachment complaint filed by congressmen against Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

"We have shown a consistent capacity for bouncing back and moving forward and we must continue to work on it," she said.

With a population of 80 million, the country’s total debt stocks would mean every Filipino owes roughly P38,500 each.

Borrowing from domestic sources accounted for 52 percent of total debts while the rest were foreign loans. — Marichu Villanueva

US-based agency allots $1-B insurance cover for RP loans  (BULLETIN) By Fil C. Sionil

US-based Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) has allocated some $1 billion worth of insurance cover for the country’s various projects and loans, an indication that the recent state visit of US President George W. Bush in Manila is already bearing fruits.

Finance Secretary Jose Isidro N. Camacho shared this news to reporters before he enplaned to San Francisco to talk to officials of California Public Employee’s Retirement System (CalPERS).

OPIC has transmitted its openness to guarantee about $1 billion worth of loans and projects of the country, which could include the $250 million items pending before the Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency or PhilEXIM have been approved in principle, Camacho said.

“I don’t want to call it approval in principle but they assured us that the guarantee will be made available to us,” Camacho said.

To recall, government authorities, prior to the Bush visit, have been wanting to access the guarantee facility window of OPIC after it was tapped by National Power Corporation for its $250 million foreign borrowings.

However, the window was temporarily closed. Camacho explained the “delay was due to some internal policy issues within Opic and has nothing to do with the Philippines.”

Meanwhile, PhilEXIM President Joel Valdez said about $250 million worth of projects already approved by his office could qualify for the Opic guarantee, among them, the xray machines for cargo vans of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Another $200-million guarantee for a $300-million wafer fabrication facility of Sun Power Phils. is on the pipeline.

The x-ray machines container vans would allow BOC to curb technical smuggling and underdeclaration of duties and taxes on imports.

On the other hand, Camacho, who chairs PhilEXIM, on a concurrent capacity, said PhilEXIM agreed to provide a guarantee for a $3 million expansion of Cyber City, a company operating a call center facility in the Clark Air Base.

Cyber City has employed 1,500 and the expansion could provide more job opportunities for Filipinos.

PhilEXIM is a stateowned financial institution primarily tasked to assist the export sector by providing guarantees, lending, credit, insurance and other enhancements that would make domestic firms more competitive.

It was earlier known as Trade and Investment Development Corp. of the Philippines or TIDCORP.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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