, JANUARY 16, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - A visiting US security official has cited the resilience of the Philippine economy despite external challenges, including skyrocketing prices of world crude, officials said yesterday.

US Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics Dan Price met with President Arroyo last Monday at Malacañang where they also discussed RP-US relations, Trade Secretary Peter Favila said.

Apart from Favila, also present during the meeting were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales.

“We took up matters of economic interest to both the Philippines and the US,” Favila said. “The exchange was very encouraging and very positive.”

He said Price congratulated Mrs. Arroyo “for the positive performance in the Philippine economy given the serious challenges.”

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo and Price also discussed World Trade Organization talks and sought the support of the Philippines in efforts to revive the Doha Round.

Bunye said the President reassured the visiting US official of the country’s support in reviving the trade talks as long as safety nets for developing nations are in place.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier ordered economic managers to implement measures to contain the inflation rate of the country below target in order to sustain growth objectives.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez said the directive was issued to Acting Socio-economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, and Favila.

“The strong peso has cushioned the effect of rising fuel costs on the economy, but we must ensure that cost of basic consumer commodities is monitored so as not to allow inflation to spiral out of control.” Golez quoted Mrs. Arroyo as saying.

For 2008, Santos said the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) set the inflation rate target at “four percent plus or minus one percentage point on account of rising prices of oil and non-oil commodities in the international market; possible upward adjustments in transport fares, utilities and wages; possible occurrences of weather-related disturbances affecting supply; and growth in domestic liquidity brought about by continued heavy inflows of foreign exchange.”

The National Economic and Development Authority recently reported that the inflation rate for 2007 was at 2.8 percent, below the target of four to five percent.

Santos said in a memo to the President that “full year 2007 headline inflation rate reached 2.8 percent, down from 6.2 percent in 2006.”

He reported that this was below the DBCC target for 2007 of four to five percent as price increases in all major commodities such as food, beverage and tobacco at 3.3 percent, clothing, 2.3 percent; housing and repairs, 1.5 percent; fuel, light and water, 3.2 percent; services, 2.8 percent; and miscellaneous, 1.6 percent were lower in 2007.

“Core inflation rate for 2007 also settled at 2.8 percent, much lower that the 5.5 percent recorded the previous year,” he said.

However, the December 2007 headline inflation rate was at 3.9 percent, while core inflation rate settled at 2.6 percent, due to increased demand for food items during the holiday season.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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