MANILA, April 22, 2004
By Marichu A. Villanueva - The decision of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) to retain the Philippines in its list of "permissible emerging markets" for investments can be considered a "vote of confidence" for the Filipino people, President Arroyo said yesterday.

In an official statement issued at the Palace, President Arroyo said the CalPERS decision gave credit to the Filipinos themselves.

"We are thankful for this development, which is a vote of confidence in the will and capacity of the average Filipino to fight for change and rise above challenges," she said.

President Arroyo received the "good news" on the unanimous decision of the CalPERS Investment Committee from Philippine ambassador to Washington Albert del Rosario last Tuesday.

"The basis for such decisions as CalPERS’ is confidence, confidence in the solidarity of economic reforms despite transitory constraints, confidence in lawand order despite isolated pockets of lawlessness and most of all, confidence in the prospect of continuity and permanence in good governance," President Arroyo pointed out.

She said the decision of CalPERS came after giving a high rating on the reform measures she has instituted in the country’s financial system.

"I just got a call from California and received the good news that the board of CalPERS have issued their decision where to place their pension fund investment and they gave the Philippines the highest rating and they consider the Philippines as among the very attractive investments because they believed in our reforms," President arroyo announced over radio station DzRH last Tuesday.

This came a month after CalPERS, the largest pension fund in the US threatened to pull out its exposure in the Philippines over their impatience about the implementation of certain reform measures.

The Chief Executive cited the CalPERS decision as one example to refute latest opinion surveys by the Social Weather Station (SWS) showing the pervading pessimism among Filipinos, wherein 44 percent of respondents said they feel their quality of life have worsened from a year ago.

She explained such feeling of pessimism of Filipinos, which also pervaded among foreign investors like CalPERS, did not develop "overnight" during her tenure.

Over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan yesterday, Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said CalPERS decision to retain the Philippines as an attractive investment destination generally reflected the country’s much improved image before the international community under the leadership of President Arroyo.

"We can see here really the improvement of our economy is also being noted by other people. This is an indication of approval by CalPERS that they would keep their investments in the Philippines," Bunye said.

"This means $80-million investments. The staying here of CalPERS really indicated they are reviewing the conditions and that the Philippines would remain as a good investment destination," Bunye pointed out.

Bunye cited the report of Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong that the Philippines exceeded the benchmark of 2 points with a rating 2.12 points given by CalPERS.

"We view this development as an endorsement of the economic reforms initiated by the President and a positive statement that the Philippines remains an important investment destination," Bunye said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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