BUSINESSMEN  STILL  UPBEAT  ON  RP

MANILA, FEBRUARY 26, 2008
(STAR) By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio - Business opportunities still abound in the Philippines despite the controversies hounding the Arroyo administration, analysts said.

In an interview, Astro del Castillo, managing director of investment firm First Grade Holdings, said the business community has gotten used to the political noise created by critics of the government.

“The business sector is comfortable with the current administration. We don’t see a credible replacement at this time,” Del Castillo said, referring to calls for the resignation of President Arroyo.

He said he has been in touch with foreign investors who are still willing to infuse money in the country, particularly in the mining, oil, tourism, real estate and transportation sectors.

However, the investors, he said, are remaining on the sidelines until the government is able to settle the issue regarding the botched national broadband network deal, which led to a flurry of corruption charges against ranking government officials.

“The general sentiment is that the business sector is still unaffected because the peso and the stock market are not sliding,” he noted.

Del Castillo said the gauge of confidence among businessmen are the peso and stock market, both of which have remained stable.

However, he said he is not entirely discounting the recent events. “There is a dent for sure but the general sentiment remains unaffected.”

In fact, he warned that if the issue of corruption against ranking government officials is are not solved immediately, the country might see a downturn in investments.

“Currently the protest actions are sporadic but if this drags on for a few more weeks we might lose some economic gains that we have already achieved,” Del Castillo said.

Meanwhile, Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman, said protest actions and the political turmoil are detrimental to the country’s economic growth.

“The foreign investors will start to look at other locations if we keep this up. We are not the only investment destination,” Ortiz-Luis warned.

In fact, he said investors have voiced other concerns about investing in the country such as the high cost of power.

With this in mind, he said the government must strive to quickly resolve the problem.

“If this keeps up then we should expect a lingering effect but if we can resolve this quickly then the market will be able to outgrow it,” he said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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