[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Arroyo speaks before businessmen at the Emerging Markets Summit in London. AP LONDON]

LONDON, SEPTEMBER 21, 2009 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo has made another pitch for the Philippines as one of the world’s best trading and investment destinations especially as Asia is drawing much of the global capital.

“I want to leave you with an understanding of how your interest in emerging markets can be applied in the Philippines, a country that I am pleased to say has demonstrated the strength and resiliency of emerging market economies during this period of global economic crisis,” Mrs. Arroyo said in a speech Friday before global business executives during the Emerging Markets Summit of The Economist magazine in London. Mrs. Arroyo was the last speaker of the summit.

The President noted that the Philippines has enjoyed 34 consecutive quarters of growth as well as the fastest growth in 30 years.

She said her administration has created eight million jobs, controlled inflation, and significantly reduced poverty.

She said well-known international financial institutions could attest to the Philippines’ huge potential as premier investment site.

The UK Trade and Investment and the Economist Intelligence Unit have tagged the Philippines as among the top 10 key emerging markets beyond BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.

Mrs. Arroyo pointed out that ratings agencies upgraded the country’s credit rating in the middle of a crisis. She cited a statement by a Moody’s Investors Service’s official that “the upgrade was prompted by the relatively high degree of resilience exhibited by both the country’s financial system and external payments position in the face of the global financial and economic crisis.”

Goldman Sachs also recently predicted that the Philippine peso, which has remained stable amidst the global financial downturn, will rise 4.7 percent in six months to the highest levels of 2008 “as the growth of remittances from our overseas workers still defy expectations and because fiscal concerns are now recognized as overblown.”

“This is a good indicator and reflection of the stability of our economy,” the President said.

HSBC Holdings PLC group chief executive Mike Geoghegan also praised the country’s economic breakthrough during a dinner for President Arroyo.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said that the bank is “looking back to Asia.”

President Arroyo said that the Philippines is “rapidly heading toward a balanced budget” and that it would have achieved such target had it not been for the global recession.

“From the temporary setback in our plans due to the global financial crisis, we are back on track to balance the budget by 2013,” she said.

“We are confident of our target because we have weathered the hardest part of the storm and we are poised for a rebound,” she added.

She said Asia offers the best opportunities for the medium-term, pointing out that most Asian countries have “a healthy financial system that remains stable and ready to support growth.”

Banks are virtually free of toxic assets and require no government bailout.

“Years of trade surpluses and high savings rates have contributed to record foreign reserves. Debt loads, for governments, corporations and consumers, are a fraction of those in the US and Europe,” she said.

“Inflation and interest rates have fallen rapidly as our central banks have deftly managed this fluid global environment,” the President said.

The President said the governments in the region have “an ongoing commitment to policy reforms which are crucial in any investment decision.”

“They are also committed to address the challenges in the bureaucracy and infrastructure that will shape the direction of their economic growth over the next decade,” she said.

“Most of emerging Asia is addressing these areas and we will return to high rates of economic growth. Because of that, now is the time to prepare for the significant opportunities that will accompany this growth,” she stressed.

Mrs. Arroyo noted that the Philippines in particular has seen an 86 percent rise in foreign direct investments in the first seven months of the year.

“The Philippines’ resilient economy, improved credit ratings, and continued fiscal consolidation efforts have produced a country with an economy that should be in every emerging market investors’ portfolio,” the President said.

“There is no better emerging market to take advantage of that growth than the Philippines. I encourage each and every one of our emerging market investors to consider the Philippines as you look for the best trade and investment opportunities that will come out of the return to high levels of economic growth,” she added.

Bankers hit

Mrs. Arroyo also accused some bankers of pretending the global financial crisis had never happened and said governments must recommit to regulatory reform.

A year after US investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, exacerbating a crisis that led to a trillion dollar rescue of the global financial system, Mrs. Arroyo voiced fear that the drive for regulatory reform was stalling.

“My biggest concern is with the lack of progress on global reform. Here we are a year after the Lehman Brothers collapse and subsequent economic contagion and already some of the same firms that got us into this mess are pretending it never happened,” she said in her speech. – With Reuters

In the euphoria brought about by signs of economic recovery, “we are losing sight of the calls early in the crisis for the overhaul of global financial regulations,” she said.

Governments must come to grips with what happened and put in place rules to stop it from happening again, she said.

“We cannot expect the poor in places like the Philippines to lose their shirt because someone on Wall Street made a bad bet,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said there was a need to “bring sense to a global financial system that is clearly not suited to the complexities of the current global challenges.”

“That is why I am stepping up the call for action for governments to come to grips with the need for a new global financial regulatory regime,” she said.

She urged leaders of the Group of 20 economic powers, who will meet in Pittsburgh next week, to take “strong, decisive action to push forward tough new regulations.”

The Pittsburgh G20 summit, the third since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, is set to focus on tougher financial regulation.

GMA shuns dinner invites in London (The Philippine Star) Updated September 20, 2009 12:00 AM

London – President Arroyo has not acceded to any request by accompanying congressmen for lunch or dinner during her four-day official working visit here, according to the ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau.

Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the President is heeding the clamor for tight public spending especially during foreign trips.

Suarez caught the public eye when he admitted last August that he also sponsored an almost P700,000 dinner for the President’s delegation in Washington.

This was after media reports on the alleged P1-million dinner hosted by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez at Le Cirque restaurant in New York that drew widespread criticism.

Apart from Suarez and Romualdez, four other legislators are part of the President’s entourage in the United Kingdom.

According to Suarez, all six congressmen decided to spend their own money in the UK because they want to improve the image of Mrs. Arroyo.

The Philippine delegation will next visit Saudi Arabia from Monday to Wednesday.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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