Thursday, 30 April 2009

Philippines releases P1B export fund

Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo
BusinessWorld Online

PRESIDENT Gloria M. Arroyo yesterday ordered the immediate release of a P1-billion export support fund aimed at providing much-needed assistance to that beleaguered sector.

Departments concerned were also directed to speed up evaluation of proposals submitted by various export groups.

"I have instructed [Trade] Secretary [Peter B.] Favila to work with the Presidential Management Staff [PMS], the Department of Finance, and the Department of Budget to facilitate the final evaluation of the proposals with the intent of releasing the fund, and I hope that that will help our export sector," said Ms. Arroyo in a speech at the closing yesterday of the 30th National Conference of Employers at the Manila Hotel.

Mr. Favila told reporters separately that the government aims to release the fund by next month. "Our target is to have the fund released by May," he said.

He said the fund could be sourced either from remaining funds from government’s "Katas ng VAT" program composed of the "windfall" in high oil tariffs as world crude prices soared in the first three quarters of last year, or the P330-billion stimulus fund.

Some of the proposals being reviewed include programs for training of workers, market access support, seminars on product design and funding for trade missions abroad.

"That is why we are reviewing their proposals because there’s a lot. It actually went over the proposed reached P1.7 billion, so the President asked me to closely coordinate with PMS and Philexport [Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.]," he said.

Philexport President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luiz, Jr. said the export industry had been pressing for such state assistance, stressing that prompt release will be crucial for exporters to compete amid slumped global demand.

The latest export group to seek the fund’s release was the Confederation of Philippine Jewellers, Inc., which said it submitted a project proposal to the Export Development Council (EDC) last February 10 that involved funding for Philippine jewellers’ participation in the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show slated for March 5-9 next year. The group’s statement yesterday said that its inquiries had always been answered with "no funds available yet."

Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) Chairman Arthur J. Young, Jr., said SEIPI and the Business Process Association of the Philippines are working on a joint program to promote the country’s information and communication technology and electronic workers to entice more investors. This program proposal will be submitted to Mr. Favila, who heads EDC’s private sector representation.

"This fund will help both industries — electronics and business process outsourcing — gain access to critical trade shows and promote the Filipino worker to investors abroad. This way, we can also promote the Philippines as a site for investments," Mr. Young said.

Government data showed Philippine merchandise exports contracted further last February, with export earnings falling by 39.1% to $2.504 billion from a year earlier, a slight easing from a 40.6% slump in January. Export earnings began contracting in October last year, by 14.8%, slightly easing a month later before plummeting in succeeding months. The entire 2008 saw merchandise exports contract by 2.9%, year on year. The government earlier this month revised its projection, down to a 13%-15% contraction from an original 6%-8% drop it projected in February. —

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