January 4, 2006 (STAR) Telecommunications giant NTT DoCoMo Inc. of Japan plans to invest around $300 million in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), President Arroyo announced yesterday, adding this reflects stronger investor confidence in the country.

Mrs. Arroyo said in a televised discussion with her economic managers that the Japanese company’s investment plan was relayed to her by Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of PLDT, the country’s largest telecommunications company, in which NTT has a substantial stake. She didn’t elaborate on the purpose of the investment. A spokesman for PLDT was not in a position to immediately confirm the announcement.

"What I want to announce is that Manny Pangilinan has told me that the NTT DoCoMo will invest $300 million in PLDT, so that is also a new investment. So we have received reports of more investments coming in this year. So we hope that this will continue," the President said. "If there are more investments then there are more jobs," she later told reporters after the program.

PLDT, through its unit Smart Communications Inc., the country’s leading cellular service provider, plans to invest heavily in a third-generation mobile network after being granted a license for the third generation of mobile communications networks that offer faster data transmission speeds, allowing video conferencing, audio streaming and mobile Internet access.

NTT DoCoMo is the world’s leading mobile communications company with more than 50 million customers.

"In addition to wholly owned subsidiaries in Europe and North America, the company is expanding its global reach through strategic alliances with mobile and multimedia service providers in Asia-Pacific and Europe. NTT DoCoMo is listed on the Tokyo, London, and New York stock exchanges," according to its published profile.

"NTT DoCoMo, provides wireless voice and data communications to many subscribers in Japan. NTT DoCoMo is the creator of W-CDMA technology, the new de facto global industry standard, as well as the groundbreaking mobile i-mode service," the profile said.

Since the start of the year, the President has repeatedly pointed to the increasing investor confidence in the country and her announcement of the PLDT-NTT DoCoMo deal came on the second straight day of roundtable discussions pointing to favorable economic developments. Apart from the continued strengthening of the peso vis-à-vis the US dollar and increased investments, the country’s sovereign bonds reportedly have the highest returns globally. — Paolo Romero, AP

GMA to keep economic team — Teves By Aurea Calica And Jess Diaz The Star 01/04/2006

In the face of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle at the start of the year, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said yesterday he would prefer that President Arroyo keep her present economic team intact. "That would be helpful, that’s why I said if I have preference, I hope they would stay," Teves said.

Malacanang’s announcement of possible new appointments this month has apparently caused some ripples in the Cabinet but Teves said the economic team would be in a "status quo."

Teves expressed belief that retaining the present economic managers could make them sustain the programs they started rather than start with a new team. But Teves said the President had not discussed with them any possible changes, which gave him the impression that the economic team would not be affected. "I suppose it’s a status quo (as regards the economic team)," he said.

"I want the present economic team to remain because we have good working relations and I’d like to believe that the results are okay," Teves told reporters.

Teves said although the economic managers could not claim full credit for the current gains in the economy because of many other external developments, he noted that continuity was important in any management. "I don’t have a basis in making any judgment except what I see… Of course any move whatsoever is the President’s prerogative," Teves said.

There were reports that Budget Secretary Romulo Neri preferred to go back to the National Economic and Development Authority and that he would be replaced by outgoing House appropriations committee chairman Rolando Andaya.

Neri was forced to head the Department of Budget and Management following the resignation of the "Hyatt 10," which included former DBM chief, Emilia Boncodin.

Malacañang bared earlier there would be "major and minor" appointments to be made in the Cabinet this month but would not cause a major revamp among its current members. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he was not at liberty to name those who would become part of the official family as Mrs. Arroyo would personally make the announcements at the right time.

"You know the Cabinet revamp is always being anticipated but for the moment the policy of the President is just announce (an appointment) as she sees fit," Ermita said.

"Of course, there’s always a review going on in the mind of the President among Cabinet members who are doing well and most of them definitely will be staying in their positions," he told reporters. He said the "few announcements later on" would be made after the papers were worked on.

"But in due time there will be certain announcements, major or minor Cabinet (positions). But still there will be some announcements to be made probably as we move early part of January," Ermita said. Malacañang has said it could appoint even members of the opposition to various positions. Ermita said not only Cabinet positions would be open but also government owned and controlled corporations, government financial institutions and other government agencies.

At the House of Representatives, Reps. Jesli Lapus of Tarlac and Vincent Garcia of Davao City said the President should heed Teves’ advice. "The economic managers have already adjusted into their corresponding role to push the President’s economic agenda, working as one in crafting and implementing policies for a more resilient economy," the two said in a joint statement.

Lapus and Garcia said "with the sterling performance of our economic managers, a revamp may not be timely as this may even cause an adverse reaction from the business sector and financial markets."

"We should not squander our hard-fought gains by changing key officials of the government, especially our economic managers," they said. Lapus, a former Land Bank president like Teves, also said the congressional oversight committee on revenue measures would closely monitor the performance of revenue agencies.

"The growth of the economy this year will largely depend on the efficiency of these agencies. How well they will manage and administer tax reforms is crucial for the country," he said. He added that with the expansion of the coverage of the value added tax and the increase of the rate from 10 percent to 12 percent next month, there should be no more excuse for poor collection performance.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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