MARCH 9, 2007 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is one with the World Bank in saying that there is much more room for investments in the Philippines to grow and vowed to sustain the reforms she initiated to have a strong impact on alleviating poverty.

In her address at the conclusion of the two-day 2007 Philippines Development Forum (PDF) here this morning, the President assured the country's development partners that the national government will continue to sustain the reforms "that will strengthen the nation’s defenses and lessen vulnerabilities to external and internal shocks."

"The government is on the same track to cut the red tape, build the digital and physical infrastructure as well as a strong energy grid nationwide, and rationalize the incentives to pull in massive investments to create jobs and beat poverty," she said.

The President’s pronouncements came on the heels of the observation by World Bank country representative to the Philippines Joachim von Amsberg in the same forum that the government must focus on raising investments and ensuring that the benefits of fiscal reform programs would lead to poverty reduction.

Von Amsberg noted that despite some fiscal improvements and reasonable growth rates, the investment rate in the country remains low at under 15 percent.

The President assured that the government is working tirelessly to build a modern nation that will one day take its rightful place among First World countries.

"Our solid economic indicators give a fighting chance to achieve at least 7 percent growth moving forward to 2010," she said. "I repeat, we are focusing on the national agenda that include more jobs, stable prices and peace and order. "

The President noted that with the continued support from its development partners, the government can balance its budget and the Philippines would no longer go into debt.

"Once again, thank you to our development partners for your faith and confidence," she said

In Malacañang, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye said the government aims "to buttress confidence even more by a unifying leadership building enterprise and political stability at all levels."

"The upbeat mood across also sectors of society inspires our unswerving focus on governance, social justice and respect for the rule of law, " Bunye added.

Gov‘t sees $116-M investments in oil drillings this year By Donnabell E L. Gatdula The Star 03/09/2007

The government is expected to raise some $116 million from five petroleum service contractors who have committed to drill at least six exploration wells in Palawan, Cebu, Ragay Gulf in Quezon, Mindoro and the East Visayan basin this year.

"A number of drilling activities will be taking place within the year for the extraction of already proven reserves that were capped in the 70’s and 80’s when they were not commercially viable then and have become commercially viable now," Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said.

Based on the individual work program submitted to the Department of Energy (DOE), Premier Oil, the operator of Service Contract (SC) 43, is expected to drill one exploration well within the first quarter of the year. The Singapore-based Premier Oil, has earmarked $3 million to drill one exploration well in the Ragay Gulf in the Bicol Region. The SC 43 contract area covers more than one million hectares.

On March 15, Forum Energy Philippines Corp., the operator of SC 40, is scheduled to conduct one well testing within its contract area in onshore Cebu. This will be their re-entry in the contract area having conducted their first well testing in 2003.

Meanwhile, between June and July, Malaysia’s Petronas Carigali Overseas Bhd is scheduled to drill one exploration well in offshore Mindoro with a total investment of at least $23 million. Petronas is the operator of SC 47.

Galoc Production Co., on the other hand, is scheduled to drill two production wells within the Galoc sub-block or SC-14C in Northwest Palawan between August and October. Galoc will be drilling two horizontal wells to penetrate greater aerial extent of the reservoir. It has earmarked $86,415,000 for the drilling of two production wells.

NorAsian Energy Ltd., the operator of SC 51 will drill one exploration well between October and December in the East Visayan Basin. NorAsian Energy Ltd., a local exploration company, has earmarked $3 million for the activity. SC 51 covers 444,000 hectares.

"Our oil and gas sector has its hands full of activities for this year and we anticipate that these activities will bring positive results to the government to help push forward the country’s drive towards energy independence," Lotilla said.

Meanwhile, the US government and the Department of Energy has entered into an agreement to spur investment in the local coal industry.

The US Geological Survey of the Department of Interior and the DOE specifically agreed to conduct a joint assessment project of the potential coalbed methane and related coal resources in the Philippines.

The project will collect, analyze, compile, synthesize, interpret, and publish critical new data on coalbed methane and coal resources in the coalfields and recoverable coal mine methane (CMM) and abandoned mine methane (AMM) reserves in the coal mine areas of the Philippines.

Coalbed methane is natural gas found in coal beds and used for a variety of purposes ranging from domestic, commercial and industrial to electric power generation. Methane is generally considered a cleaner form of energy; exploration costs are low and wells used to extract coalbed methane are cost effective to drill.

The Philippines has about 19 coal districts which contain significant coal deposits. These coal deposits are found in the area or coal districts of Catanduanes, Danao in Cebu, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Maguindanao, Sarangani, Surigao del Sur, Batan Island, Masbate, Semirara, Mindoro, Quezon-Polilio, Davao, Negros, Sorsogon, Cagayan-Isabela, Quirino, Sultan Kudarat and Samar-Leyte. Total coal resources in these areas are estimated at about 2.3 billion metric tons while total coalbed methane potential is estimated at about 16.4 billion cubic meters.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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