MANILA, JUNE 22, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Investor confidence in the Philippines is now at an all-time high with the economy reaching a new level of stability that would be hard to shake, President Arroyo declared yesterday.

In her speech at the opening of the 2nd Annual Philippine Investment Conference organized by Euromoney at the Shangri-La Mactan in Cebu, Mrs. Arroyo vowed to achieve the economic targets for the year but called on the private sector to help the government attain the economic objectives.

Mrs. Arroyo said “there has been a sea of change in the Philippines” where the country’s budget deficit has lowered and revenues increased while the economy grew to unprecedented levels because of tough economic reforms.

“As a result, we perceive that investor confidence in the Philippines is at an all-time high,” Mrs. Arroyo told the participants.

“This did not happen by accident. We have worked hard to create and maintain a business-friendly environment,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the country is pleased that both international and local investors “are interested in capitalizing on the greater economic gains generated by our administration’s reform platform and our country’s favorable economic conditions.”

She said the Philippines is a competitive location for all companies looking to establish or expand their operations in the Asia-Pacific as it offers a strategic location in a fast-growing region while its workforce is well educated, productive and English-speaking.

“There has never been a better time to invest in the Philippines. The world is taking notice. In my discussions with corporate executives throughout the world it is clear that there is widespread international recognition that we offer one of the best values for money in Asia for investors,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

She cited the recent decision by Texas Instruments to invest $1 billion to build a chip plant in the country, along with the decision of Toyota to build its transmission plant, and Ford to set up its flexible fuel engine, over other locations in the region.

Hanjin of Korea is also building a billion-dollar shipyard, the fourth biggest in the world, in the Philippines while Marubeni, together with Tokyo Electric is investing $4 billion in the local power sector, Mrs. Arroyo pointed out.

“These (investments) are validations that our strategy is working… In sum, we are a good business environment getting better,” she said.

While the administration is putting its fiscal house in order, the economy has been growing in parallel with the fiscal gains with 26 consecutive quarters of economic growth, Mrs. Arroyo said.

While other countries in the region experienced economic recession from 2001 to 2007, economic growth in the Philippines has been consistent quarter after quarter, she said.

At 6.9 percent in the first quarter, the Philippines is one of the few countries experiencing stronger growth this year than in 2006, she said.

“Our commitment to making the difficult decisions to instill permanent change in our economy has been a major contributor to these achievements,” the President said.

She said her administration’s unpopular efforts “are paying off in a strong peso, low inflation, a robust stock market that is at its highest index in our entire history, rapid inflows of foreign investment and six million jobs created in the last six years.”

“Our unemployment rate is the lowest in a generation. Our poverty rate is the lowest as well. Our economy has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in a decade,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President vowed to do more to sustain the gains and achieve long-term prosperity by continuing on the path of economic reform.

She expressed confidence that the momentum of the economy will continue to drive further growth to not only exceed last year’s level, “but to meet our aggressive targets for the year.”

The government is aiming for a 6.1 to 6.7 percent GDP as well as wiping out the deficit this year.

“We intend to move forward by working in partnership with the private sector,” Mrs. Arroyo said as she assured investors the government is taking steps to make setting up of businesses in the country easy.

The President also urged the private sector, particularly rural bankers and their partners, to help in creating more micro-entrepreneurs in the provinces.

In her speech read by Presidential Management Staff chief Secretary Cerge Remonde, during the recent 10th anniversary celebration of the Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS) program held at the Manila Hotel’s Centennial Hall, Mrs. Arroyo lauded the efforts of the Rural Banking Association of the Philippines (RBAP) for helping the marginalized sector get out of the rut of poverty by providing loans to micro entrepreneurs.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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