MANILA, December 5, 2003  (STAR) The Philippines has to formulate an "integrated economic strategy" to strengthen its "competitive edge" and thereby earn increased foreign exchange receipts, according to a top business leader.

George Siy, president of the Confederation of Garment Exporters of the Philippines, said that some of the possible avenues for growth the country could capitalize on include call centers, semiconductor industries, and tourism.

Siy, who spearheaded the diverse interests of the businesses of his late father textile magnate Ramon Siy Lai, said that even the China market could be tapped for Philippine products.

While China is a source of problematically cheap textiles and toys, it is beginning to snap up our sea and agricultural products and even "some of our homegrown branded items."

Siy also frowned on selective free trade arrangements with developed countries like the US as he said the Philippines should go to the negotiating table discussing all industrial sectors and not just one segment.

"We need to come up with realistic strategies because the industry’s survival is at stake," Siy said, adding that there is a need to rethink market access and to invite more foreign investors.

"We have to concentrate on creating value for the survival and prosperity of industries and the Philippine economy as a whole," Siy said.

The Wharton-trained business executive also said that the country should not rely so much on debt for its development.

Peso continues to gain The Philippine Star 12/05/2003

The peso continued to gain more ground against the dollar yesterday, rising by another 10.50 centavos to settle at a three-week high of 55.275 from Wednesday’s close of 55.380 to the dollar due to the influx of remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The peso has slowly regained strength after falling to a record low of 55.850 to the dollar last week.

However, markets were nervous about policy instability after the decision by film star Fernando Poe Jr. to contest next year’s presidential elections, Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho’s resignation and the likelihood of a deterioration in the budget deficit next year.

At the Philippine Dealing System (PDS), the peso opened strong at 55.350 before hitting a high of 55.260 and a low of 55.350 against the greenback.

Total volume traded amounted to $117.85 million on an average rate of 55.294 to $1.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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