OCTOBER 5, 2006 (STAR) MANILA (AFP) - Philippine President Gloria Arroyo is examining ways to help the country's export sector which has been battered by the rising peso, her spokesman said Thursday.

Exporters warned the government on Wednesday that targeted revenues of 50 billion dollars this year will not be met due to the peso's rapid appreciation.

"We share the concern of the export industry over the continued strength of the peso," Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said in a statement.

"But as a policy, we always leave it to market forces to determine the true value of our currency."

The chairman of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Sergio Ortiz-Luis, told the BusinessWorld newspaper that exporters had pegged their prices at 51-52 pesos to the dollar.

"With six months' worth of goods to deliver, they're already losing," he told the newspaper.

'We were expecting to breach the 50 billion-dollar mark this year but it will not happen."

The peso breached the 50 to the dollar level for the first time in four years on Monday and has gained 6.15 percent since the start of the year.

The peso was at 50.01 to the dollar on Wednesday afternoon as investors took profits.

Much of the gain has been due to remittances from Filipino overseas workers and improvements in the government's finances.

Inflation eased to its lowest level in 27 months in September at 5.7 percent due mainly to a stronger peso and lower oil prices.

Bunye said Arroyo's economic advisers are considering "concrete measures to assist the export sector, balance out the situation and maintain a business environment that would spur more jobs and better infrastructure." He gave no other details.

RP takes out possible ‘basing’ provision in Australia draft of military agreement By Pia Lee-Brago The Philippine Star 10/05/2006

The Philippines has removed from Australia’s counter draft of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) a provision that could eventually turn out a "basing" agreement, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Sources said the Philippine side negotiating with Australia on the SOFA took out the provision that Australia placed in the annexes instead of including it in the major provisions of the defense agreement.

"Because of our experience with the United States when they had their bases here, we took a provision out of Australia’s counter draft," a source said.

"That provision was only in the annexes, but we were very careful because it could turn out a basing agreement so we had to take that out," the source said.

Sources said that also removed from the annexes was the provision on criminal jurisdiction since it is the "heart of the agreement."

"When we studied their draft of the SOFA, we found the provision on criminal jurisdiction only in the annexes so we insisted to remove that and make it part of the major agreement because it is the heart of the agreement," another source said.

Sources said the case of US military personnel who come to the Philippines to take part in training and the Subic rape case involving US Marines are lessons that made the country extra careful in negotiating for a SOFA.

Australia’s expectation to finalize a SOFA with the Philippines this year is not possible since it has come up with a counter-draft of the defense agreement, the source added.

Sources said Australia’s anticipation for both countries to sign the SOFA within five to six months is not workable because the Australian government has decided to come up with its own draft.

The Philippines, as ASEAN chair, will also focus on hosting the ASEAN Summit in December in Cebu , the source added.

The Department of National Defense has scheduled an inter-agency meeting last week.

Australia will be hosting the next round of talks after the Philippines hosted the last negotiation in Manila.

Sources said the Philippines stands to gain from the SOFA because the country can avail of Australian expertise on counter-terrorism.

While the deployment of Australian troops to the Philippines will not be large-scale compared to US troops, the Philippine government will not need a big allocation for training in Australia since the Australian military can come to train their Filipino counterparts.

Earlier, Australian Ambassador Tony Hely said the Australian government will be able to finalize the SOFA in one to three months since it is an administrative procedure on their part.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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