SINGAPORE, September 3, 2005
 (STAR) (AFP) The Philippine economy is likely to grow 5.0 percent this year and the implementation of a crucial tax law should boost its fiscal position, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) president said Friday.

"The fiscal situation has been gradually improving in the last several months and on top of that if the Value Added Tax is increased, significant fiscal situation improvement would be possible," ADB chief Haruhiko Kuroda told foreign correspondents here.

Dollar falls in Asian trading on pessimism about U.S. economy 09/02 11:07:39 AM

TOKYO (AP) - The dollar dipped in Asian trading Friday morning on pessimism about the U.S. economy as worry spread about the global surge in oil prices, damage from Hurricane Katrina and weak data.

The dollar traded at 109.85 yen late morning in Tokyo, down 0.95 yen from late Wednesday and slightly below the 109.88 yen it bought in New York later that day. The euro rose to US$1.2487 from US$1.2370 late Thursday.

In New York Thursday, the euro reached its highest level in more than three months against the dollar after the Institute for Supply Management's index of national manufacturing activity fell to a reading of 53.6 in August from 56.6 a month earlier as new orders and production slipped back from elevated levels in July.

"After a string of disappointing U.S. data we have to stay cautious about buying dollars," said Mizuho Corporate Bank customer dealer Kazuhiko Fujisaki.

The rise in Japanese share prices also helped push the dollar lower, traders said. The benchmark Nikkei finished the morning session up 0.3 percent.

The dollar was also down against other major currencies.

The British pound rose nearly 3 cents to US$1.8311 from US$1.8016 in New York on Wednesday. The dollar fell to 1.2359 Swiss francs from 1.2549, and to 1.1843 Canadian dollars from 1.1870.

The market is now watching for a batch of U.S. data expected later in the day, including August nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate.

Weaker-than-expected personal income and spending data for July from the U.S. Commerce Department added to the pressures to sell the dollar.

Gasoline futures surged for the fourth day in a row on the New York Mercantile Exchange, sending prices 25 percent higher in less than a week. Oil prices climbed too, even though traders say they are less concerned about the shutdown of petroleum platforms in the Gulf of Mexico than they are with the closure of refineries and pipelines.

The European Central Bank left its key interest rate unchanged at 2 percent, where it has been since June 2003, saying the level was low enough to support a modest economic recovery in the 12 nations that share the euro.

Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet also warned that rising oil prices had increased the risk of higher inflation and slower economic growth.

He said the ECB now expects economic expansion in the euro zone to be between 1.0 percent and 1.6 percent this year, down from a June projection of 1.1 percent to 1.7 percent. Next year, he said, gross domestic product growth is expected to be from 1.3 percent to 2.3 percent, down from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent.

In the United States, the Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 1 percent in July, matching a strong June increase. Incomes rose a smaller 0.3 percent in July, down from a 0.5 percent gain in the prior month. The combination of a surge in spending and slower income growth sent personal savings to minus 0.6 percent, the lowest level since the government began keeping these records in 1959.

Tsunami-hit Sri Lanka among Asia-Pacific nations offering hurricane aid 09/02 4:22:07 PM

COLOMBO (AP) - Asia-Pacific nations-- including tsunami-battered Sri Lanka-- promised Friday to send money and disaster relief experts to the United States to help deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"There should not be an assumption that because America is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, this isn't a major challenge and a major crisis," Australian Prime Minister John Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Australia topped the list of those in the region who pledged aid, with a promise of 10 million Australian dollars (US$7.6 million) to the American Red Cross.

Howard also announced plans to dispatch a 20-member team of disaster experts to the United States, after Australian officials consulted with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Japan and Singapore-- which along with Australia are among Washington's strongest allies in the region-- were also quick to promise help.

Japan pledged US$500,000 worth of aid-- US$200,000, for the Red Cross and US$300,000 in emergency supplies such as tents, blankets and power generators, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

Singapore sent three CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 38 troops based in Grand Prairie, Texas, to Fort Polk, Louisiana, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Chinooks would work with the Texas Army National Guard in disaster relief operations, including resupply and airlift missions, the statement said.

Some of Asia's poorer nations also offered to help, including some hardest hit by the last December's tsunami that left more than 228,000 people dead or missing in 11 countries.

Sri Lanka, which received substantial U.S. military and other foreign aid after the tsunami killed more than 31,000 and displaced 1 million, on Friday pledged US$25,000 to the American Red Cross.

The government also urged Sri Lankan-born physicians living in the United States to volunteer their services to the relief effort.

In Indonesia, the country worst-hit by the tsunami, and Thailand, which was also battered, top government officials expressed their condolences and said they were still considering how best to offer practical help.

Australia's Howard said the devastation seen in New Orleans was extraordinary.

He said the money Australia was sending would be spent on "all the sorts of things that are provided to people all around the world when they're suddenly rendered destitute."

Asia's pledges mirrored responses in other regions, and represented a global turnaround as the world offered help to one of the world's biggest aid donors and most developed countries.

Venezuela offered humanitarian aid and fuel. Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum Corp. pledged a US$1 million donation for hurricane aid.

The United Nations offered to support the relief effort "in any way possible."

Israel offered hundreds of doctors, trauma experts and other medical staff as well as field hospitals and other relief.

Other offers came from Russia, Canada, France, Honduras, Germany, Venezuela, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, China, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, NATO and the Organization of American States.

Spain to lend 27M US dollars for solar energy project in RP 09/02 2:12:21 PM

MANILA (AFP) - Spain will lend the Philippines 1.52 billion pesos (27 million US dollars) to set up solar energy systems for remote villages under a land reform program, the government said Friday.

Solar-powered systems would boost agricultural productivity and electrify community facilities such as school buildings and potable water systems in areas which are inaccessible to normal power systems, it said. Some 55,000 households in the central and southern Philippines will be provided with photo voltaic energy systems for agriculture and small businesses, the government said in a statement.

The Philippines would contribute 50.2 million dollars to the project.

News editor-in-chief: Sol Jose Vanzi

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