(STAR) The economy likely expanded more than seven percent in the third quarter on the back of brisk consumer demand, sustaining the growth trend of the previous quarters, a top economic official said yesterday.

The economy grew at its fastest pace in nearly two decades in the second quarter, rising 7.5 percent from the same period last year and pushing first-half growth to 7.3 percent.

“We expect the first-half performance to be sustained in the third quarter. We expect pretty much the same number,” said Acting Economic Planning Secretary August Santos.

He said given the trend and an expected recovery in the agriculture sector, the government may have to adjust its growth target of 6.1 percent to 6.7 percent for the whole year.

“The drivers will still be primarily private consumption,” Santos said, citing strong remittances from Filipinos working abroad as well as revenue from business process outsourcing companies, a growing industry in the Philippines.

In 2006, the economy expanded 5.4 percent. — AP

Customs beats Sept target by P262M By Iris C. Gonzales Tuesday, October 2, 2007

(STAR) The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has surpassed its collection target for the month of September on the back of enhanced audit measures and stepped-up collection efforts, a ranking official said yesterday.

The agency, the government’s second largest revenue earner next to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), collected P19.304 billion in September or P262 million higher than the P19.042-billion target for the month, preliminary data showed.

“As of initial computation today, we have collected P19.304 billion for September. P19.042 billion is the target for September so we have a surplus of P262 million,” Customs Deputy Commissioner Rey Umali said in an interview yesterday.

This is the third straight month that the BOC has met its collection target, following a disappointing performance in the first half of the year. Last July, the BOC collected P20.8 billion, higher than its target for the period of P19 billion. In August, it collected P20.9 billion, P1 billion higher than the target.

The agency is tasked to collect P228.5 billion this year. From January to August, it has already collected P133.9 billion or 3.5 percent higher than the P129.3 billion collected in the same period last year.

Umali explained that the BOC’s efforts to enhance its collection measures have been paying off. He cited the strict implementation by the agency of the tariffs on different imported commodities entering the country.

But while it has been meeting its monthly collection targets so far, the BOC had expressed fears that it may not be able to meet its collection target for next year on expectations that the peso would continue to strengthen against the dollar.

For next year, the BOC has a collection goal of P254.5 billion, but Morales conceded that the agency may not be able to meet next year’s target given the strong performance of the peso against the dollar.

Morales said the P254.5-billion target assumes a peso-dollar exchange rate of P46 to the $1. The peso, however, has already appreciated to as high as P45 to the dollar and has been trading at that level for several days now.

Every peso appreciation, Morales said, results in P2.2 billion in revenue losses. The peso is expected to continue strengthening against the dollar. Analysts and rating agencies estimate the peso to hit P44 against the greenback this year and possibly P42 by next year.

A strong peso cuts the BOC’s revenues as it diminishes the value of import taxes.

The local currency has been supported by hefty dollar inflows from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Morales had earlier asked Finance Secretary Margarito Teves to reduce by P9 billion the BOC’s collection goal for next year to P245 billion from the present target of P254 billion.

The Finance department, however, rejected Morales’ request due to heavy pressure from Malacañang to meet the government’s goal of wiping out the budget deficit by the end of next year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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