MANILA, October 25, 2005
 (STAR) The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP or Central Bank of the Philippines) reported on Monday that the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) hit an all-time high of 18.6 billion US dollars, which further strengthened the peso.

In a roundtable conference with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo attributed the GIR strong surge to the credible foreign capital inflows and the hike in remittances by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

GIR’s components include foreign investments, gold reserves, OFWs’ remittances and other foreign exchange receipts.

Guinigundo said OFWs’ remittances for the first seven months of 2005 posted an impressive 28 percent growth, which reaffirmed the role of OFWs as one of the pillars of the peso’s potency.

"We also acknowledge the capital infused by foreign investors, both portfolio and equity investments, which added to our dollar reserves," he noted.

"We have exceeded our GIR target of US$16 billion," Guinigundo added.

The BSP official also cited the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the constitutionality of the Expanded Valued Added Tax (EVAT) law and lifting the temporary restraining order (TRO) on it which, he said, renewed the investors’ confidence in the country.

He likewise expressed his appreciation to Congress for its having crafted new legislations to improve the banking system, the capital market and the overall economic environment.

Trade Secretary Favila, for his part, said his department will continue efforts to further promote the country’s trade and investments, which have reached 145 billion pesos.

Favila informed the President that the latest foreign investor in the country is a medical transcription company which is set to open shop in Dumaguete City by January.

2006 budget approval within time frame, reassures JDV, Andaya 10/24 4:05:18 PM

Speaker Jose de Venecia and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rolando Andaya, Jr. Monday assured that the one-trillion peso proposed 2006 General Appropriations Act will be approved before the end of November.

“We believe we are within our schedule and we expect plenary budget approval by the third or last week of November,” de Venecia said.

De Venecia expressed optimism that the proposed national outlay could be signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the last week of December.

“We are working closely with Senator Manny Villar, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for the early passage of the GAA. We will not have a re-enacted budget next year,” the Speaker said.

On the other hand, Chairman Andaya brushed aside concerns about the reported in-fighting among members of the majority coalition, saying it has no effect on the current budget deliberations.

“(That's nothing.) It has no effect in our deliberations. (That's just a family squabble) and I expect the Speaker will be able to resolve it by next week,” the appropriations chairman revealed.

Andaya, likewise, assured that the 160-member House Appropriations Committee will resume its marathon committee budget hearings come November 8. Congress resumes session on November 7.

“We are within our time table. We expect approval of the budget before the end of November,” Andaya said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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