[PHOTO COURTESY OF GLOBAL INQUIRER - President Benigno Aquino and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva]

MANILA, MAY 30, 2011 (SUNSTAR ONLINE) AN OPPOSITION lawmaker on Friday blamed the Aquino administration for the decline in the business optimism index, which dropped to 31.8 percent in the second quarter from 47.5 percent in the first quarter.

"This shows the very slow response of the Aquino administration to issues like oil crisis, which spiked prices, under-spending which caused economic slowdown, and unemployment which also brought down investor confidence in the country," Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay (photo at left, below) told reporters in a text message.

The Business Expectation Survey released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) indicated that the dip was due to higher operational costs, as well as slow business procedures and fund disbursements for government construction projects.

The confidence index is computed as the percentage of companies that answered in the affirmative, minus the percentage of firms that answered in the negative regarding their views on a given economic indicator.

"Despite the hype of the Aquino administration, [it has] failed in implementing government programs that will help boost and pump prime the economy. Job generation was affected which resulted to less consumer spending," Magsaysay pointed out.

A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed that the number of unemployed Filipinos increased from 9.9 million in November last year to 11.3 million in March 2011.

In contrast, the National Statistics Office (NSO) reported that nearly three million people are out of work as of January this year. The independent pollster and the government used different methods in estimating the number of jobless Filipinos.

Palace bucks report, economic reforms underway

For its part, Malacañang refused to be cowed by the latest drop in private sector confidence in the economy, saying efforts are underway to bring the Philippines back on the investment map.

Among others, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the economic managers continue to find ways to streamline business processes and speedy implementation of public-private partnership projects.

"The effects will be felt by the majority of our countrymen over the coming years as the Aquino administration continues to realize its vision of equitable growth," he said.

President Benigno Aquino III, who arrived Friday from a two-day state visit in Thailand, said business leaders in the Southeast Asian economic giant expressed their desire to expand operations in the country.

These are Thailand's leading conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), Siam Cement Group (SCG) and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT).

Charoen will engage in the hog raising industry since the Philippines remains reportedly safe from the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease.

For its part, SCG will soon venture into power-related commerce.

At present, the company owns the Mariwasa Siam Ceramic Inc., a leading producer of ceramic floor and wall tiles in the Philippines.

Meantime, Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) Public Company Ltd. is interested in raising capital for setting up a manufacturing plant for its liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) products.

The President also requested PTT officials to invest in the country's compressed natural gas (CNG) sector.

Only Pilipinas Shell is involved in the exploration of CNG in the Philippines.

The government is currently exploring renewable energy sources, such as hydro and geothermal power, in order to lessen the country's dependence to fossil fuel.

Magsaysay advised the economic managers of President Aquino to rethink their position on policy direction "as continuing the present route will make matters worse."

The Lakas-Kampi party, headed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, earlier said Aquino failed to take advantage of the economic growth he inherited from the past government.

The economy grew by 7.6 percent last year on the back of election spending and renewed business confidence.

President Aquino said the economy may grow between seven and eight percent this year although foreign think tanks and lenders have already made an average lower forecast of six percent. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)


Aquino strengthens ties with Thailand By GENALYN D. KABILING May 26, 2011, 6:49pm

BANGKOK, Thailand – Injecting fresh momentum into bilateral relations between the Philippines and Thailand, President Aquino arrived here Thursday for a two-day visit seeking to broaden cooperation on trade, investment, anti-drug trafficking, and disaster management.

The President touched down in Bangkok past Thursday noon for an official visit upon the invitation of Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and highlighted strong bilateral ties between the two Asian neighbors.

Aquino said he intends to expand cooperative partnership with Thailand during his meeting with Abhisit at the Government House late Thursday afternoon as the world faces political, economic, and environmental challenges.

The two leaders were expected to hold extensive discussions on various topics of bilateral, regional and global interest, shortly after Aquino’s meeting with some Thai businessmen.

“This is part of the administration’s agenda to strengthen our bilateral relations with Thailand and enhance our solidarity with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” the President said about his overnight visit here.

“Our bilateral relations with Thailand were established on 1949 and after more than six decades, our ties remain strong. As members of the ASEAN, it is important to have good relations between the Philippines and Thailand to achieve our vision of progress,” said Aquino who was accompanied by a 52-man delegation.

During his visit to Thailand, Aquino also made a pitch for investments under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, adding he hopes to encourage Thai investors to put their money in the Philippines.

He said the prospective PPP investments in the country’s infrastructure development would facilitate the generation of more jobs for Filipinos as well as ease pressure on government funds, which could instead be used to enhance social services.

The President noted that Thailand is the country’s 9th largest trading partner in 2010 and expressed hope his visit will further expand trade relations and reap more benefits for the nation.

He said better economic relations with Thailand would facilitate growth of the Philippine economy as well as improve the plight of Filipinos back home.

In his meeting with Abhisit, the President also intended to raise the need for enhanced cooperation on education, agriculture, and combating drug trafficking.

“We will also discuss how to improve our preparation during calamities especially since our country is often hit by natural calamities,” he added.

After his day of full meetings, Aquino was scheduled to attend a dinner hosted by the Thai Prime Minister at the Government House last Thursday night.

On Friday, the President said he would also check on the condition of the Filipino workers here during an assembly on the second day of his tour.

Aquino said he wanted to thank the Filipino community for their hard work in improving the lives of their families back home as well as contributing to the nation’s economic growth.

“I will also thank Thailand for giving our countrymen an opportunity to work in their country,” he said.

Aquino said he expects his visit to Thailand would be productive, adding he cannot wait to return to Manila and report the good news about the trip. He is expected to return to Manila on Friday.

Before the President left with his 52-man delegation, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. said funding for the foreign trip expenses has been pegged at P4.5 million.

The amount covers expenses for air fare, hotel accommodation, food, transportation, and telecommunications and equipment requirements.

The official delegation includes Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

Other officials who are part of the presidential delegation are Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Linglingay Lacanlale, Chief of Protocol and Presidential Assistant for Foreign Affairs Miguel

Perez-Rubio, Energy Undersecretary Josefina Patricia Asirit, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Cristina Ortega and Secretary Ramon Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

Prior to his departure, Aquino warned government officials to ensure that everything is put in place for the heavy rainfall from typhoon “Chedeng.”

He said there will be government officials who will be held accountable if preparations for the typhoon were put to naught. (With a report by Madel R. Sabater)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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