MANILA, June 16, 2005
 (STAR) (AFP) - The country's jobless rate plunged to 8.3 percent in April, down sharply from 11.3 percent in January, the government said Wednesday.

This left some 2.9 million out of the labor force of 35.1 million without work, down from 4.03 million in January, the National Statistics Office said in a statement.

The sharp drop surprised analysts.

"It is really too good to be true," said Ron Rodrigo of Accord Capital Equities Inc.

Rodrigo suggested that perhaps more young people were getting jobs earlier rather than pursuing higher studies but he questioned if these jobs were on a long-term basis.

Local poultry exports soar thanks to bird flu fears 06/15 5:41:46 PM

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines' poultry exports to Asia are rising strongly this year thanks to its lack of bird flu cases, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said Wednesday.

"It's very evident we are taking advantage of it now," Yap said, remarking that there had been 3.5 million kilograms (7.7 million pounds) worth of poulty exports so far this year compared to 1.5 million kilograms for all of 2004.

"At this rate, we are looking at 10 million kilograms of exports this year to the region," he told reporters.

To safeguard the industry, Yap said the government had released an additional 53 million pesos (974,200 US dollars) "to be used as the first line of defense" in ensuring that bird flu does not spread to the Philippines.

This would rehabilitate laboratories that would check for bird flu and set up a system under which poultry producers would have to report to provincial agriculture officials if there is "more than a three percent mortality rate" among a commercial chicken grower, he added.

The Health Department has also prepared procedures to ensure that cases of bird flu can be swiftly addressed to prevent its spread, especially to humans.

The Philippines is also stepping up its confiscation and destruction of poultry smuggled in from countries where bird flu has been detected, particularly China.

There have been no cases of bird flu found in the Philippines but the government has banned the import of poultry and live birds from many Southeast Asian countries as a precautionary measure.

Filipino overseas worker remittances up 19.1 percent in April 06/15 5:17:33 PM

MANILA (AFP) - Increased deployment of Filipino workers abroad helped raise their salary remittances to the Philippines by 19.1 percent from a year earlier to 790 million US dollars in April, the central bank said Wednesday.

Remittances for the four months to April rose 17.2 percent to 3.1 billion dollars, it said in a statement.

These are mainly due to the "double-digit growth in deployment of both land-based and sea-based workers in April" as well as "seasonal transfers for the school enrollment period" ahead of the June 2005 opening of the school year.

Cumulative worker deployments abroad rose 3.8 percent to 344,058 in the first four months of the year, with service workers accounting for 42.7 percent of the total, 29.4 percent professional or technical workers, and 24.1 percent factory workers.

The government hopes to export more than a million Filipino workers abroad this year. One in 10 Filipinos now work or live abroad.

The central bank said the bulk of the remittances for the first four months came from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Japan, Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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