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Friday, January 30, 2004
Philippine central bank retains FY CPI target despite peso fall
Philippines economic and corporate news summary UHC30
Forex -Philippine peso ends slightly firmer on fear of central bank help
Philippines' Globe to borrow 150 mln usd to help finance 2004 capex
Philippines' ABS-CBN offshore unit targets 30 pct profit growth in 2004
Philippines' Arroyo boosted by poll, urges rivals to denounce military plots
Philippines' DBCC raises 2004 revenue target by 0.5 pct to 674.4 bln pesos
Bank of the Philippine Islands 2003 net profit up 10 pct
Forex - Euro down a tad in Singapore afternoon trade on technical correction
Philippines' Equitable PCI Bank sees 2003 net profit up more than 20 pct
Philippines' Philex Dec copper/gold/silver output gross value 309.7 mln pesos

Thursday, January 29, 2004
Singapore-listed Fastech Synergy appoints John Payne as CEO
Philippine National Steel creditors sign deal for firm's rehabilitation
Philippine Supreme Court voids mining law provisions on foreign participation
Singapore's Nera Telecoms receives 2.2 mln usd of orders to supply equipment
Forex - Philippine peso ends at new all-time closing low on coup talk
Philippines' Globe Telecom 2003 net profit up 50 pct, declares cash div
ROUNDUP - Philippine GDP grows 4.5 pct in 2003 but sustainability in question
Philippines' Meralco planning 7-yr 200-mln usd bond issue - co. treasurer
DATAWATCH - Philippine elections, global recovery to aid country's economy
Philippines' PLDT to list 1,972 common shares Jan 30 - PSE
Philippine National Bank starts roadshow for 2.2-bln peso bond offer
Philippines' San Miguel 2003 net profit 7.37 bln pesos, up 7 pct
Philippine economy grows 4.5 pct in 2003 led by services
Philippines farmers trim poultry stocks amid bird flu fears - Neri
Manila shares close sharply weaker on economic, political concerns
Philippines' Arroyo vows to deal 'sternly' with military plotters
Philippines Jan CPI seen up 3.0 pct yr-on-yr vs up 3.1 pct in Dec - Neri
Philippine peso weaker partly due to govt destabilization rumors - Tetangco
Philippine military officers held for "inciting rebellion"

January 27 - 28
January 23 - 26
January 21 - 22 
January 19 -20 
January 16 -17 
January 14 -15 
January 12 - 13  
January 8 - 9 
January 6  -  7
January 04 - 05


 

 

Philippine central bank retains FY CPI target despite peso fall


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The central bank has retained its inflation outlook of an annual 4.0-5.0 pct growth for 2004, despite the peso's sharp fall against the US dollar.
     "(Concern over the) CPI (Consumer Price Index) is still something we would need to consider at a future date," said central bank managing director Diwa Guinigundo at a press conference.
     While the local currency recently dropped to a historic low of 56.22, its average of 55.51 for January has remained within government's foreign exchange average assumption of 54.00-56.00 to the US dollar for the year, Guinigundo added.
     The peso's weakness, stemming largely from political noise ahead of the May general elections, is expected to be temporary, he said.
     Other risks to this year's CPI outlook also persist, which include higher oil prices and increases in tariffs and utility charges, the central bank said in its quarterly inflation report.
     Local oil prices have been edging up since late last year to reflect global oil price movements, the central bank said in the report.
     More price increases are in the offing as the petroleum industry begins to recover the higher costs of acquiring and/or producing environment-friendly fuels, it added.
     From Jan 1, oil companies are required, under the Clean Air Act, to reduce the sulfur content in automotive diesel to 0.05 pct from 0.2 pct.
     Meanwhile, electricity rates in metropolitan Manila are seen rising once the Manila Electric Co begins to implement a provisional 0.12 pesos per kilowatthour increase in its rates. A hold order from the Supreme Court has, however, temporarily prevented Meralco from putting in place the tariff hike.
     Central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said earlier the CPI is expected to rise of 3.2-3.6 pct year-on-year this month, higher than the 3.1 pct seen in December.
     He said this month's CPI will reflect recent increases in oil prices.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines economic and corporate news summary UHC30


     BEIJING (AFX-ASIA) - A summary of Philippine economic and corporate news at 1000 GMT
     -Philippines Jan CPI seen up 3.2-3.6 pct yr-on-yr vs 3.1 in Dec - Buenaventura
     -Philippine exchange approves 119.50 pesos price offer to strategic investors
     -Philippine president trails behind film star in opinion poll ahead of vote
     -Philippines' Arroyo boosted by poll, urges rivals to denounce military plots
     -Bank of the Philippine Islands 2003 net profit 5.7 bln pesos vs 5.2 bln
     -Bank of the Philippine Islands Q4 net profit 1.5 bln pesos vs 1.2 bln
     -DBCC raises 2004 revenue target by 0.5 pct to 674.4 bln pesos
     -Equitable PCI Bank sees 2003 net profit up more than 20 pct
     -Globe Telecom to borrow 150 mln usd to help finance 2004 capex
     -Bank of Commerce mulling Tier 2 debt issue, IPO
     -Meralco sees 24 mln usd cash deficit in Q1
     -Philex Dec copper/gold/silver output gross value 309.7 mln pesos
     emily.xiong@xfn.com
 

 

Forex -Philippine peso ends slightly firmer on fear of central bank help


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso regained some lost ground against the US dollar, after falling to its lowest level ever on Thursday, on fears the central bank may use monetary tools to curb the local currency's weakness.
     Dealers said the peso's fall to a historic low of 56.22 to the US dollar yesterday was overdone, and that the market had to correct itself on its own.
     The peso closed at 55.98 after trading between 55.82 and 56.06 on volume of 128.80 mln usd.
     It closed at 56.01 yesterday but not after hitting an all-time low of 56. 22 on political and security concerns.
     Dealers said the market was cautioned by central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura's open-ended statement that while the monetary regulator intends to keep benchmark interest rates steady, it still could resort to either a rate hike or an increase in banks' reserve requirements should the peso's weakness persist.
     "There's no such thing as an alarming rate (for the peso)," Buenaventura told reporters.
     He blamed the peso's fall on a confluence of factors, which include a strong US dollar, month-end dollar requirements of companies and importers, and political noises related to the upcoming elections and a rumored military uprising.
     "We're paying premium for some instability," Buenaventura said.
     He said the currency risk protection program available to importers has helped reduce pressure on the local currency.
     The central bank governor ruled out any speculative play.
     "The peso's recovery should not be surprising. Falling to 56 was overdone. The market did correct to a more rational level," a local bank dealer said.
     Dealers said the peso is seen regaining strength next week, likely trading within the 55.65-56.00 range unless there are new surprises on the political front.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' Globe to borrow 150 mln usd to help finance 2004 capex


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Globe Telecom Inc said it will seek new loans of up to 150 mln usd to finance its capital expenditures for this year.
     The company has set a 350-mln usd budget for its 2004 capital expenditure, of which 260 mln will be spent on new projects, with the balance to be used for programs started in 2003 and scheduled for completion this year.
     Globe also plans to repay some 162 mln usd worth of loans this year, company chief finance officer Delfin Gonzalez Jr said at today's briefing on Globe's 2003 financial results.
     Annual loan repayments should slightly decline to 144 mln usd in 2005, 158 mln usd in 2006 and to 108 mln in 2007.
     Globe has yet to finalize details of this year's borrowing plan.
     "We're looking for both peso and US dollar. We haven't selected any bank yet because we will need it (the money) later in the year," he said.
     "We're not doing a bond issue."
     Gonzalez said half of the company's budget would be internally generated, while another 100-mln usd loan facility negotiated last year would be drawn this year both for capex and loan refinancing.
     Globe is currently expanding its capacity to enable it to service up to 12 mln subscribers this year.
     It added 2.3 mln mobile phone subscribers in 2003, bringing its total subscriber base to 8.9 mln by the end of last year.
     The company projects the industry's penetration rate to reach 33-40 pct of the country's 80 mln population by 2005. The penetration level as of end-2003 is estimated at 27 pct, breaching the initial target of 25 pct earlier set for 2005.
     Globe president and chief executive officer Gerardo Ablaza Jr said the company's initiatives in 2003 and this year -- including retail over-the-air loads and flat rates for the prepaid market -- are focused on the "great mass" of the population.
     He said the country's second largest carrier will continue to build its network to areas outside metropolitan Manila where much of this year's growth is expected to come from, drive down cost for greater flexibility and introduce new products in the market.
     "We believe we are carefully equipped to face the challenges that lie ahead," Ablaza said.
     Globe posted an unaudited net profit of 10.3 bln pesos in 2003, 50 pct higher than the 6.9 bln booked in the previous year, on sustained gains in the wireless business.
     Globe, which is substantially owned by Philippine conglomerate Ayala Corp and Singapore Telecom, also said its board of directors has declared a first semi-annual cash dividend of 18 pesos per common share with record date of Feb 18. Payment will be made on March 15.
     (1 usd = 56 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' ABS-CBN offshore unit targets 30 pct profit growth in 2004


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - ABS-CBN Global Ltd, the international arm of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp, said it is aiming to increase subscribers of The Filipino Channel (TFC) in Europe by about 8,000 to boost its earnings by 30 pct this year.
     ABS-CBN Global managing director Rene Encarnacion said the company, which has already signed on 400 subscribers after its European launch in December, expects an increase in subscription sales due to the interest of Filipino communities in Europe.
     TFC is a 24-hour channel carrying all-Filipino programs through direct-to-home satellite services in the US, Asia, and the Middle East. It has an office in Milan, Italy where there are about 100,000 Filipino households.
     Encarnacion said ABS-CBN Global registered net profit growth of more than 20 pct in 2003, but did not provide figures.
     "Our growth was primarily driven by the expansion in subscriber base. We also had a nominal increase of subscription price in our US market last year. "
     He said estimated total sales for 2003 reached more than 50 mln usd, while revenue from subscriptions reached more than 25 mln usd and advertising revenue stood at 3 mln usd.
     He said ABS-CBN's overseas operation is "a real high-growth area."
     "There are opportunities for expansion all over the world. There's a lot of room for growth, particularly with the continued migration of Filipinos," Encarnacion said.
     North America remains TFC's major market, with at least 130,000 subscribers in the US and its territories.
     The channel also has operations in Australia, Japan, Indonesia and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
     The company plans to expand its Asian operations by penetrating Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Canada.
     ABS-CBN Global recently signed a ten-year contract with American satellite service provider, PanAmSat8, which allows for a broader programming reach across the globe.
     "We are confident that with our infrastructure and long-term contracts with cable and satellite providers we can meet our revenue target for this year and also sustain the profitability of the business," Encarnacion said.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' Arroyo boosted by poll, urges rivals to denounce military plots


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Buoyed by a stronger showing in opinion polls, President Gloria Arroyo challenged rivals today to denounce alleged plots by the military to overturn the government ahead of May's presidential ballot.
     "For the sake of the people and the nation, we must demonstrate a united stand for democracy and against its detractors. In this matter, silence is acquiescence," Arroyo said.
     Her comments followed the arrest of five junior officers over the past two days for allegedly inciting a rebellion. "This case is closed," she added, stressing that "culprits will be subject to military and civilian justice."
     News of the alleged plot rocked the financial markets yesterday, coming days after the Philippines suffered a sovereign credit rating downgrade due to its shaky finances.
     The local currency plunged to an all-time low amid fears that the election would be aborted.
     "There is only one way forward and this is through the ballot, and nobody in uniform has the right to intimidate the people in such a manner," Arroyo said.
     "Meanwhile, I call on the opposition and all other political groups to condemn military adventurism in the strongest terms."
     A survey by the independent Social Weather Stations released today gives Arroyo a 10 percentage-point surge, putting the president in second place behind movie star Fernando Poe in nationwide voter preferences.
     Arroyo was in fourth place a month ago. However, she remains nine points adrift of Poe, a high school dropout, who unlike his movie star friend, deposed leader Joseph Estrada, has no political experience.
     Poe polled 36 pct to Arroyo's 27 pct among six presidential candidates.
     "We take note of the fact that the President's relative standing has improved compared to the previous survey," Arroyo spokesman Ignacio Bunye told reporters.
     He cited another survey of Manila businessmen that had put Arroyo on top -- and Poe last. This poll "implies that the country would be in the best hands if the president is elected," he added.
     Meanwhile, Arroyo said today "the economy is well and moving upward but the peso is being pummelled by political bickering and electioneering, coupled with isolated military adventurism.
     "This is a transient problem and we will get over it soon."
 

 

Philippines' DBCC raises 2004 revenue target by 0.5 pct to 674.4 bln pesos


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) has decided to raise this year's revenue target to 674.4 bln pesos from 671.2 bln on expectations of increased collections from the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Treasury (BTr), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.
     The DBCC, which sets the government's revenue targets, expects higher customs and BTr collections to more than offset the down-scaling to 476.3 bln pesos from 488.6 bln of the Bureau of Internal Revenue's collection goal, it said in a statement.
     "The reduction in BIR collections incorporates the impact of the non-passage of the indexation of sin taxes and the anticipated lower excise tax collections with the closure of Caltex refineries," the DBM said.
     Caltex has closed down its refining facilities in the Philippines, having decided to import refined products to be sold locally.
     The DBM said, with the higher revenue target, the DBCC also raised the disbursement ceiling for foreign-assisted projects to 872.2 bln pesos from 869.0 bln.
     The DBCC, however, maintained the government's macroeconomic targets for this year, including a GDP growth in the range of 4.9-5.8 pct and a budget deficit ceiling of 197.8 bln pesos, or 4.2 pct of GDP.
     (1 usd = 56 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Bank of the Philippine Islands 2003 net profit up 10 pct


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) said it booked a net profit of 1.5 bln pesos in the fourth quarter of last year, pushing its full-year unaudited 2003 net profit 10 pct higher to 5.7 bln pesos from the previous year thanks to improved revenues and lower operating expenses.
     The fourth-quarter net profit rose from 1.2 bln a year ago.
     Return on equity stood at 11.1 pct and return on assets at 1.5 pct in 2003, up from the previous year's 10.2 pct and 1.3 pct respectively, BPI said in a statement.
     The country's second largest bank said it preserved its net interest margin at 3.9 pct despite an increment of 1.0 bln pesos in taxes resulting from the shift from gross receipt taxes to value added taxes (VAT).
     "Non-interest income was relatively flat even with a 214 bln peso increase in VAT," BPI said.
     It saw positive earnings in its insurance subsidiaries, asset management and trust fees and credit card revenues, but these were counterbalanced by declines in trading gains on securities and foreign exchange and profits from asset sales.
     The bank's streamlining efforts resulted in a 4.3 pct savings in operating expenses while manpower cost was relatively flat as a further 5 pct reduction in headcount served to neutralize salary adjustments.
     It said both premises cost and other operating expenses ended lower by 4 pct and 5 pct, respectively.
     BPI's total resources increased 3 pct to 419 bln pesos at end-2003 due to a 3 pct rise in deposit levels to 324 bln pesos.
     Loans posted minimal growth of 1 pct as corporate loans fell short of target, it said.
     BPI's nonperforming loans accounted for 6.5 pct of total loans at end-2003, down from 9.6 pct a year ago.
     (1 usd = 56 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Forex - Euro down a tad in Singapore afternoon trade on technical correction


     SINGAPORE (AFX-ASIA) - The euro weakened slightly against the US dollar on a technical correction in mid-afternoon trade in Singapore trade as the unit is seen as largely overbought, dealers said.
     The yen was range-bound against the dollar after falling towards the 106 level in the morning.
     The FOMC's comments earlier this week bolstered the dollar's firmness relative to the euro as the market interpreted them to mean that interest rates may be raises sooner than expected, they added.
     At 2:49 pm, the euro was at 1.2403, after moving in a range of 1.2382-1. 2421, while the dollar was trading 106.00 to the yen after moving within a tight range of 105.88-106.13.
     Claudio Piron, head of foreign exchange strategy at Standard Chartered, said that the euro is consolidating mainly for technical reasons ahead of the Group of Seven (G7) meeting.
     "The euro has been the most overbought currency. Given the overbought position, it has more to re-adjust than any other currency," Piron said.
     "In terms of growth dynamics and data performance, less of the European data has surprised on the upside. It is more the American and the Japanese data that has continued to surprise," Piron said.
     However, Piron said that he remains bearish on the dollar and expects the euro to rebound to 1.40 in the second quarter of this year.
     He added that he expects the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in June by 50 basis points and another 50 basis points in the third and fourth quarter, respectively.
     "We're expecting a total of 150 basis points (rate hike) this year," he said.
     As for the dollar's position against the yen, it remained range-bound as fears of a Bank of Japan intervention limited its downside, while commercial sale orders capped the upside, dealers said.
     Piron said that continuing capital inflows to Japan could cause the dollar/yen to weaken ahead of the G7 meeting.
     "I think overall the risk is that, as we approach the G7 meeting, we will test the 105 level in the dollar/yen rate," he said.
     Singapore 2:50 pm Tokyo 1:00 pm Dollar yen 106.00 up from 105.95 sfr 1. 2608 up from 1.2590 Euro usd 1.2403 down from 1.2406 stg 0.6832 unchanged from 0.6832 yen 131.29 down from 131.44 sfr 1.5600 down from 1.5619 Sterling usd 1.8133 down from 1.8160 yen 192.90 up from 192.41 sfr 2.2858 down from 2.2863 Australian dollar usd 0.7601 down from 0.7636 stg 0.4191 down from 0. 4205 yen 80.55 down from 80.903 denise.wee@afxasia.com dew/ds AFN

 

 

Philippines' Equitable PCI Bank sees 2003 net profit up more than 20 pct


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Equitable PCI Bank ended 2003 with full-year net profit growth of more than 20 pct on robust consumer lending and treasury operations, bank president Rene Buenaventura said.
     The country's third-largest bank has exceeded earlier expectations of 10 pct growth in net profit, and may be able to maintain this pace of growth this year, he said.
     "We're going to grow by more than 20 pct," he said, noting that final 2003 numbers will be disclosed soon.
     Equitable PCI's 2002 net profit was 728.6 mln pesos.
     In the nine months to September last year, Equitable PCI booked net profit of 985.5 mln pesos versus from 548.0 mln a year-earlier.
     "It's mostly from growth in consumer loans, treasury income like other banks and then low-cost deposits," Buenaventura said.
     The bank intends to boost its consumer lending business this year, he said.
     (1 usd = 56 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' Philex Dec copper/gold/silver output gross value 309.7 mln pesos


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philex Mining Corp said it produced in December 1.59 mln kilograms of copper, 221,311 grams of gold and 252,281 grams of silver with an estimated gross value of 309.7 mln pesos.
     The company had earlier reported an output with a value of 285.8 mln pesos for November.
     Shipments of copper concentrate in December were valued at 507.39 mln pesos, compared with November shipments worth 280.44 mln, Philex said in a statement to the stock exchange.
     (1 usd = 56.01 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Singapore-listed Fastech Synergy appoints John Payne as CEO


     SINGAPORE (AFX-ASIA) - Philippines-based semiconductor assembly and services provider Fastech Synergy said it has appointed John Payne as chief executive officer.
     Payne was previously president of Fastech Synergy.
     denise.weeafxasia.com
 

 

Philippine National Steel creditors sign deal for firm's rehabilitation


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine National Bank and four other secured creditors of the National Steel Corp today signed a memorandum of agreement with India-based Global Infrastructure Holdings Ltd (GIHL) for the re-opening and rehabilitation of the steel company, PNB said in a statement.
     Rehabilitation work on the steel facility, based in the province of Ilijan, will begin next month, it said.
     Under the agreement, GIHL will pay secured creditors and original stockholders of National Steel 13.25 bln pesos over an 8-year period under a negotiated schedule.
     PNB said the five local banks that signed the agreement represent 64.32 pct of National Steel's exposure to the banking system. The steel firm's other secured creditors are also expected to sign the agreement next week.
     Negotiations on the drafting of an asset purchase agreement will soon follow, the execution of which will result in GIHL making a downpayment of 1. 0-bln pesos to National Steel's secured creditors.
     The balance of 12.25 bln pesos will be paid out over an 8-year period.
     (1 usd = 56.01 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine Supreme Court voids mining law provisions on foreign participation


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Supreme Court voided certain provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which allows 100 pct foreign-owned companies to exploit the country's mineral resources.
     The High Court struck down as unconstitutional portions of the mining law pertaining to so-called financial and technical assistance agreements (FTAA) or service contracts with foreign-owned firms.
     "Although the statute employs the phrase 'financial and technical agreements' in accordance with the 1987 constitution, it actually treats these agreements as service contracts that grant beneficial ownership to foreign contractors contrary to the fundamental law," the Supreme Court said.
     A service contract is a concession within which the government or any agency or private person granted a right to exploit mineral resources authorizes another party to take part in the exercise of such right.
     The court also declared as void the FTAA between the Philippine government and WMC Philippines, a wholly-owned unit of Australian mining and exploration firm Western Mining Corp Holdings Ltd.
     The 1987 Philippine Constitution prohibits foreigners from exploiting all lands of public domains and other natural resources the State owns, the court said.
     Richard Bale, senior trade commissioner at the Canadian Embassy, said the court ruling comes at an "unfortunate time especially given recent government initiative to revitalize the mining industry."
     He said this sends a negative signal to foreign investors.
     "I think there's going to be a general perception that the Philippines' investment environment is a bit unpredictable," he said.
     "It's unfortunate because one of the real comparative advantages that the Philippines has is in its mining sector."
     He said the Philippines could use its "tremendous mineral resources" in boosting exports to, in particular, China, which "is growing so rapidly and has a very large and growing need for mineral resources."
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Singapore's Nera Telecoms receives 2.2 mln usd of orders to supply equipment


     SINGAPORE (AFX-ASIA) - Nera Telecommunications Ltd, a distributor of network products, said it has received orders of approximately 2.2 mln usd to supply radio equipment to a cellular operator in the Philippines and Nera Networks, Inc in the United States.
     The orders are not expected to have a significant impact on the performance of the Group for the current financial year, it added.
     (1 usd = 1.69 sgd)
     denise.wee@afxasia.com
 

 

Forex - Philippine peso ends at new all-time closing low on coup talk


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso ended at a new all-time closing low as investors panicked on news of alleged fresh attempts by a small group of military officers to destablize the government, dealers said.
     Traditional dollar demand among companies completing their month-end financing requirements further fuelled the local currency's weakness, they added.
     The peso closed at 56.01 versus the US dollar after trading between 55.95 and 56.22 on volume of 202.80 mln usd. It closed at 55.90 yesterday.
     "Local political developments have kept the peso falling. Most foreign investors are not confident things would improve moving towards the election in May," a local bank dealer said.
     Local banks who were short on the dollar beefed up their positions while foreign banks were also seen buying for their offshore clients, another dealer said.
     There was no "substantial" intervention on the part of the central bank, with one dealer saying today's volatile trade suggests the regulator may have let the market on its own for a while.
     Central bank officials have declined to comment on intervention activity.
     Asked by reporters on whether monetary policy action, such as an increase in benchmark interest rates, is in the offing to aid the weak local currency, central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said there was none.
     Six military officers were arrested yesterday for inciting rebellion against President Gloria Arroyo's government.
     The six, who have been detained by the Philippine Army, were part of a group within the armed forces who came out on television yesterday demanding the resignation of Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
     The group accused the defense secretary of spying on Arroyo's rivals for the presidential election in May as well as "consolidating efforts so that the forthcoming elections will not push through as scheduled."
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' Globe Telecom 2003 net profit up 50 pct, declares cash div


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Globe Telecom Inc said it posted an unaudited net profit of 10.3 bln pesos in 2003, 50 pct higher than the 6.9 bln booked in the previous year, on sustained gains in the wireless business.
     Analysts polled by AFX-Asia had expected Globe's 2003 net profit to come in a range of 8.5 bln to 11.1 bln pesos.
     Globe, which is substantially-owned by Philippine conglomerate Ayala Corp and Singapore Telecom, also said its board of directors has declared a first semi-annual cash dividend of 18 pesos per common share with record date of Feb 18. Payment will be made on March 15.
     The dividend is based on the strong earnings results in 2003. The company's board has set a dividend payout rate of approximately 50 pct of the previous year's net profit payable semi-annually in March and September of each year.
     The payout rate is subject to an annual review taking into account the company's operating results, cash flow, debt covenants, capital expenditure levels and liquidity, Globe said.
     Globe said it added 2.3 mln mobile phone subscribers in 2003, bringing its total subscriber base to 8.9 mln by the end of last year.
     The company has set a 350 mln usd budget for its capital expenditure this year, of which 260 mln will be spent on new projects, with the balance to be used for programs started in 2003 and scheduled for completion this year.
     Capital expenditure in the previous year amounted to 15.8 bln pesos, or 33 pct of service revenues.
     "2003 proved to be another banner year for Globe," company president and chief executive officer Gerardo Ablaza Jr said.
     "Now we welcome 2004 with all the challenges it brings. Given the developments of the past year, we think that the wireless market will continue to present many opportunities which may push (the) penetration rate to 33 pct over the next 12-18 months."
     He said Globe is "well prepared to participate in that growth."
     Globe chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala II said the company has "made great strides in advancing our businesses despite the challenging economic conditions and fierce competition in the market."
     "Connectivity is now truly a critical facet in the lives of many millions of Filipinos and we are extremely optimistic about the company's future growth prospects," he said.
     Globe's 2003 EBITDA - earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization - reached 27.9 bln pesos, representing an EBITDA margin of 59 pct on service revenues.
     At end-2003, its total asset base stood at 141.9 bln pesos, while total debt dropped 4 pct to 56.1 bln from the previous year.
     Globe had free cash flow of 13.3 bln pesos as of end-2003, almost double the 6.9 bln it had at end-2002.
     (1 usd = 56.010 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

ROUNDUP - Philippine GDP grows 4.5 pct in 2003 but sustainability in question


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine economy grew slightly faster in 2003 at 4.5 pct compared with the previous year's 4.4 pct, but the sustainability of such growth is questionable as investor confidence is being undermined by domestic political uncertainties ahead of the May elections, analysts said.
     Today's announcement by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) of GDP growth, driven by the services sector, particularly telecommunications, was overshadowed by the peso's plunge to new record lows in morning trade.
     Market players pulled down the peso to as low as 56.22 to the US dollar in a knee-jerk reaction to reports of alleged fresh attempts by a group of military officers to destabilize the government.
     The peso ended at 56.010, its weakest-ever closing level, after finishing at 55.900 yesterday.
     The supposed plot against the government, which may have been nipped in the bud after the government announced the arrest of a group of military officers accused of inciting rebellion against President Gloria Arroyo, put pressure on the peso already battered by other factors.
     Central bank deputy governor Amando Tetangco Jr said dollar-buying by corporates for their month-end requirements and a strong US currency, following a reworked US Federal Reserve policy statement, widely seen as opening the door to US rate hikes, also pulled down the local unit.
     A currency strategist with an offshore bank said the peso is headed towards the 57 level "before the May polls" and may further weaken to 59 by the end of the year.
     This scenario, however, is based on the assumption that the elections will be held smoothly.
     News of the supposed destabilization plot against the government came just two days after Moody's Investors Service downgraded the country's long-term foreign currency rating by a notch, citing fiscal and political concerns ahead of the May polls, adding that the rating outlook is negative.
     The equities market was likewise shaken by the government destabilization rumors, as the composite index fell 33.82 points or 2.18 pct to 1,515.15.
     "Concerns over the possibility of another episode of military adventurism agitated both the currency and equities markets," First Grade Holdings managing director Astro del Castillo said.
     "Investors took shelter in the dollar and away from the equities market and the peso."
     He said 2003 GDP data was "already history (and) investors are more concerned about what's happening now and its impact on the economy."
     Accord Capital Equities analyst Lawrence de Leon said "the market reacted to the peso's fall, as this may lead to a possible rise in interest rates, making equities less attractive as an investment instrument."
     "Higher interest rates will make fixed-income instruments more attractive to investors," he said, adding that the weaker peso could also bring in inflationary pressure.
     "With higher inflation, companies will suffer from increased operating costs, resulting in lower earnings," de Leon said.
     Worries about the economic fallout from the spread of bird flu in Asia may have also undermined investor sentiment towards some of the regional markets, dealers said.
     However, Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri is maintaining an upbeat forecast for 2004, and some economists think the Philippines could weather the current political uncertainties.
     Election-related spending and a much-anticipated global economic recovery are likely to enable the Philippines to meet its 2004 economic growth targets, GK Goh Securities regional economist Song Sen Wun said.
     The government is keeping its 2004 GDP growth target of 4.9-5.8 pct year-on-year despite lingering political and security concerns related to the May general elections.
     "All factors considered, increased spending related to the elections and an expected recovery in exports should give a lift to the Philippines' performance this year," said Song, who is projecting GDP growth of 5.0 pct this year.
     Last year, exports grew 3.3 pct year-on-year, a slowdown from 3.6 pct growth in 2002 as sales of electronics, the country's major export product, fell in line with the global glut in supply and lower exports to the US.
     This year, however, the government expects sales of Philippine products overseas to grow 10 pct in line with the global economic recovery.
     Song said the services sector will continue to be a main driver of growth this year, while the agricultural sector's performance will largely hinge on the weather rather than on "human intervention."
     "On the surface, the Philippines did better. However, it could have been much better had the industry sector posted substantial improvement. The absence of fresh investments has been a drag," Song said.
     Moving forward, higher oil prices and a weak peso, which today fell to a historic low against the US dollar, will continue to challenge the country's economic growth prospects.
     "Oil prices will likely remain high as long as the US dollar remains weak. For the Philippines, this will mean added inflationary pressure and higher costs for industries. We may see interest rates rising sooner than expected," Song said.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' Meralco planning 7-yr 200-mln usd bond issue - co. treasurer


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Manila Electric Co plans to issue 200 mln usd worth of bonds in the international market to help refinance this year's maturing debts worth more than 11 bln pesos, the company's treasurer Rafael Andrada said.
     The debt papers will have a seven-year maturity.
     Meralco officials, however, said the power firm would have to await a final ruling from the Supreme Court, which recently suspended Meralco's 0.12 peso per kilowatthour rate increase provisionally approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission.
     The tariff hike, which is seen boosting the company's revenues by 1.9 bln pesos annually, was supposed to have taken effect early this month.
     "Hopefully, the Supreme Court rules right away. It is hard to convince the international community to put in money because this is an issue of credibility," Andrada said.
     Meralco chairman and chief executive officer Manuel Lopez added: "There might be questions that we cannot answer during the international roadshow regarding this issue. So we have to wait for it to be resolved before we push through with our planned bond float."
     The country's largest power distributor was able to roll over to March the payment of 4.32 bln pesos in short-term borrowings that matured late this month.
     Meanwhile, Lopez said the company may have slightly missed its 1.0-bln peso net profit target last year due to provisions, which he did not identify.
     "We will barely hit the 1.0 bln. It may be less than that because there are provisions. Our auditors have yet to finalize it," Lopez said.
     In 2002, Meralco registered a full-year net loss of 2.01 bln pesos.
     (1 usd = 56.096 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

DATAWATCH - Philippine elections, global recovery to aid country's economy


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Election-related spending and a much-anticipated global economic recovery are likely to enable the Philippines to meet its 2004 economic growth targets, GK Goh Securities economist Song Sen Wun said.
     The government is keeping its 2004 GDP growth target of 4.9-5.8 pct year-on-year despite lingering political and security concerns related to the May general elections, with its optimism fuelled by the economy's ability to perform better-than-expected last year.
     The Philippine GDP expanded by 4.5 pct in 2003, slightly better than the previous year's 4.4 pct growth, with gains in the services sector helping the economy to weather a number of adverse global and domestic economic and political developments, the government said. The government had targeted growth of 4.2-5.2 pct.
     "All factors considered, increased spending related to the elections and an expected recovery in exports should give a lift to the Philippines' performance this year," Song, who is projecting GDP growth of 5.0 pct this year.
     Last year, exports grew 3.3 pct year-on-year, a deceleration from a 3.6 pct growth in 2002 as sales of electronics, the country's major export product, declined in line with the global glut in supply and lower exports to the US.
     This year, however, the government expects sales of Philippine products overseas to grow 10 pct in line with the global economic recovery.
     Song said the services sector would continue to be a main driver of growth this year, while agriculture's performance would largely hinge on the weather rather than on "human intervention."
     "On the surface, the Philippines did better. However, it could have been much better had the industry sector posted substantial improvement. The absence of fresh investments has been a drag," Song said.
     The services sector grew 5.9 pct year-on-year in 2003, contributing 2.7 percentage points to the country's 4.5 pct GDP growth.
     The agriculture sector posted a 3.9 pct year-on-year improvement, higher than 2002's 3.3 pct and contributed 0.8 pct pt to GDP. Industry's annual growth however slowed to 3.0 pct in 2003 from 3.7 pct a year before largely due to the negative growth in the construction sub-sector.
     Moving forward, higher oil prices and a weak peso, which today fell to a historic low of 56.22 to the US dollar on fears of a military uprising, will continue to challenge the country's economic growth prospects.
     "Oil prices will likely remain high as long as the US dollar remains weak. For the Philippines, this will mean added inflationary pressure and higher costs for industries. We may see interest rates rising sooner than expected," Song said.
     (1 usd = 56.096 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' PLDT to list 1,972 common shares Jan 30 - PSE


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) is set to list some 1,972 common shares tomorrow to cover those availed of under its Executive Stock Option Plan (ESOP), the Philippine Stock Exchange said.
     PLDT had applied for the listing of up to 1.28 mln common shares in 2000 for the ESOP, with a par value of 5.00 pesos each and an exercise price of 814 pesos each.
     Tomorrow's listing brings the total number of listed ESOP shares to 6,214.
     PLDT closed today down 25 pesos at 920.
     (1 usd = 56.10 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine National Bank starts roadshow for 2.2-bln peso bond offer


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine National Bank said it has commenced a domestic roadshow for up to 2.2 bln pesos worth of lower Tier 2 subordinated debt issuance.
     The notes, which will strengthen the bank's capital base, have been rated Ba1 by Moody's Investors Service, which recognized PNB's "systematic, albeit declining, importance as one of the Philippines' largest indigenous banks by assets as its strong franchise in overseas remittance and its function as the government's depositary institution."
     JP Morgan Securities Ltd is sole arranger of the debt issue, while Multinational Investment Bancorporation and PNB itself are the notes' selling agents.
     PNB said the notes will be in two issues. Series A notes may only be issued or transferred to individuals and tax exempt institutions, while Series B notes will be limited to non-series A eligible note holders.
     Equitable PCIBank's trust banking group has been appointed public trustee, registree and paying agent.
     (1 usd = 56.096 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' San Miguel 2003 net profit 7.37 bln pesos, up 7 pct


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - San Miguel Corp said it booked a net profit of 7.37 bln pesos in 2003, up 7 pct from the previous year's restated level, driven by strong revenue growth across all its businesses.
     The food and beverage conglomerate has restated net profit from the earlier reported 6.6 bln pesos, but did not provide the actual restated level in its statement.
     Analysts polled by AFX-Asia had expected San Miguel's 2003 net profit to come in at around 7.0-7.3 bln pesos.
     Consolidated net sales revenue rose 9.0 pct to 148.6 bln pesos from 136.1 bln in the previous year, with beverage volumes growing strongly by 14 pct, packaging up by 10 pct and volumes 4 pct higher for the food group. The company said it enjoyed robust growth in domestic beer sales, improved performance of the food group, and strong fourth quarter gains in international beer.
     The company sells nine out of every 10 beer bottles consumed in the Philippines.
     EBITDA - earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization - reached 20.3 bln pesos in 2003, up 8 pct from 2002, while earnings per share improved to 2.60 pesos from 2.49.
     Sales of San Miguel Beer Philippines rose 13 pct in value terms to 30.6 bln pesos, and 12 pct by volume.
     International beer operations recovered from SARS-related weakness in the first half of 2003, with operating income reaching 10.27 mln usd in the second half.
     Ginebra San Miguel's sales volume grew 6 pct from 2002, with revenues totaling 12 bln pesos, also up 6 pct.
     Consolidated net revenue of the Coca-Cola Beverage Group reached 41.3 bln pesos, up 17 pct from 2002.
     San Miguel's Packaging Products' sales revenue rose 13 pct to 17.3 bln pesos.
     The San Miguel Food Group posted 9 pct growth in operating income to 2.04 bln pesos, thanks to a "significant" improvement in poultry prices in the latter part of the year, the company said.
     (1 usd = 56.10 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine economy grows 4.5 pct in 2003 led by services


     (Updating with more comments from the economic planning secretary)
     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine GDP expanded by 4.5 pct in 2003, slightly better than the previous year's 4.4 pct growth, with gains in the services sector helping the economy weather a number of adverse global and domestic economic and political developments, the government said.
     Economists polled by AFX-Asia had expected GDP growth in 2003 to come in a range of 4.0-4.5 pct while the government had targeted growth of 4.2-5.2 pct.
     GDP growth in the fourth quarter, however, slowed to 4.5 pct year-on-year from the third quarter's 5.1 pct, which was revised up from 4.4 pct, the National Statistics Coordination Board said.
     The gross national product (GNP), which includes net factor income from abroad, expanded 4.5 pct year-on-year in the fourth quarter and 5.5 pct in the whole of 2003, stronger than the previous year's 4.5 pct.
     Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said the government remains confident of meeting this year's GDP growth target of 4.9-5.8 pct, on expectations that services, led by telecommunications, will sustain its robust growth.
     Services output rose 5.9 pct in 2003, after growing 6.5 pct in the fourth quarter, the highest quarterly rise last year.
     Seasonally adjusted, GDP in the fourth quarter grew 1.6 pct from the previous quarter while GNP expanded 3.0 pct quarter-on-quarter.
     "The economy's performance bucked the assessment at about this time last year of most private sector analysts, credit rating agencies and multilateral agencies, who projected growth to fall below the government's forecast," Neri said at a news conference.
     "The numbers show that the economy continues to keep its internal dynamism going despite the many adverse global and domestic economic and political developments that buffeted it in 2003."
     Business confidence was shaken last year by the SARS outbreak, the war in Iraq, the Oakwood failed mutiny, recurring security problems and an unstable political environment.
     Neri said last year's growth was boosted by robust private consumer spending while the macroeconomic environment remained generally conducive to private sector investment spending.
     Merchandise exports in 2003 rose 3.3 pct, while imports were up 10.3 pct.
     Looking ahead, he said agriculture and services should be "stronger" this year after growing 3.9 pct and 3.0 pct, respectively last year.
     "The strong growth in 2003 bolsters the likelihood of the 2004 GDP growth forecast of 4.9-5.8 pct. The services sector will continue to be the main engine of growth, particularly telecommunications, trade, and private services," Neri said.
     "Industry is...expected to strengthen, abetted by sustained demand of Filipino consumers, and partly by the recovery of exports. Agriculture is also expected to continue growing strongly, in the absence of an El Nino, and the continuation of existing programs."
     He projects exports this year will grow 10 pct.
     Key to achieving the 2004 targets, he said, is "continued macroeconomic stability, anchored on fiscal discipline and stable financial and currency markets."
     The weaker peso, however, is seen to have both negative and positive effects on the economy, he said
     "We all know that the peso's weakness is a double-edged sword. It boosts exports while at the same time puts pressure on public debt," he said.
     At the Philippine Dealing System, the peso averaged 56.073 to the US dollar by noon, after falling to a fresh all-time low of 56.190 on volume of 126.3 mln usd. It opened at 55.950, weaker than yesterday's close of 55.900.
     "The foreign exchange volatility is more an indicator of nervousness than anything else," Neri said.
     He expects election-related spending to amount to around 30 bln pesos, but this is not considered "productive spending."
     He also hopes private sector spending will post "double-digit" growth this year, but noted that "business confidence remains rather volatile."
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines farmers trim poultry stocks amid bird flu fears - Neri


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA - Philippines farmers are trimming their poultry stock and consumers are shifting to other meat products as bird flu sweeps through Asia, the government said Thursday.
     However, Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri downplayed the economic impact of the outbreak, which has now hit 10 Asian countries, killing 10 people.
     "The (potential) impact is really very insignificant on us, maybe its more psychological," he told a news conference.
     The Philippines, which has remained free of the virus, has banned all Asian poultry imports and strengthened quarantine procedures at its ports.
     The agriculture department yesterday also warned Filipinos to be wary of migratory birds that spend the winter in the country.
     Chicken farmers have "let go of their stocks, those that are already matured," Neri said.
     "I suspect it was due to bird flu," he added.
     "It may have also resulted in (poultry) prices going down," with Filipino families "shifting to other meat," Neri said.
     He said the 82 mln Filipinos are, perhaps, "lucky" that they live in an island chain and not on the Asian mainland.
 

 

Manila shares close sharply weaker on economic, political concerns


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed sharply down, pulling the key index to its lowest level in two weeks, as reports of an alleged destabilization plot against the government sent the peso to its fresh record low against the US dollar, dealers said.
     They said losses in regional equities markets this morning and on Wall Street last night also provided a negative backdrop, while investors seemed to have fully discounted the Philippines' 2003 GDP growth of 4.5 pct announced today.
     The composite index closed down 33.82 points, or 2.18 pct, at 1,515.15 on volume of 139.1 mln shares valued at 631.1 mln pesos. It traded between 1,511. 86 and 1,539.15.
     In the broader market, losers outnumbered gainers 51 to 10, while 33 stocks were unchanged.
     At the Philippine Dealing System, the peso averaged 56.073 to the US dollar by noon, after falling to as low as 56.190 on volume of 126.3 mln usd. It opened at 55.950, weaker than yesterday's close of 55.900.
     Besides the government destabilization rumors, dollar buying by corporates for their month-end requirements and a strong US currency following a reworked US Federal Reserve policy statement - widely seen as opening the door to US rate hikes - also weighed on the local unit, central bank deputy governor Amando Tetangco Jr said.
     Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the government has arrested six military officers for inciting rebellion against President Gloria Arroyo's government.
     The six, said to be part of a group within the armed forces, came out on television yesterday demanding the resignation of Ermita, whom they accused of spying on Arroyo's rivals for the presidential election in May.
     They also accused Ermita of "consolidating efforts so that the forthcoming elections will not push through as scheduled."
     Arroyo said the government is secure following the six military officers's arrest and vowed to deal "sternly" with the plotters.
     Accord Capital Equities analyst Lawrence de Leon said "the market reacted to the peso's fall, as this may lead to a possible rise in interest rates, making equities less attractive as an investment instrument."
     "Higher interest rates will make fixed income instruments more attractive to investors," he said, adding that the weaker peso could also bring in inflationary pressure.
     "With higher inflation, companies will suffer from increased operating costs, resulting in lower earnings," de Leon said.
     "Concerns over the possibility of another episode of military adventurism agitated both the currency and equities markets," First Grade Holdings managing director Astro del Castillo said.
     "Investors took shelter in the dollar and away from the equities market and the peso."
     He said the 2003 GDP data was "already history (and) investors are more concerned about what's happening now and its impact on the economy."
     The equities market is supported at 1,500-point level, and next at 1,480, analysts said.
     Top-traded Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) was down 25 pesos at 920 on 228,880 shares.
     Globe Telecom was down 25 at 920 on 73,460 shares.
     San Miguel A bucked the trend, up 0.50 at 57 on 844,800 shares, while San Miguel B, available to foreign investors, rose 1.50 to 71 on 349,100 shares. The food and beverage conglomerate will announce today its 2003 results, with net profit seen higher by "close to 10 pct" than the previous year's level of 6.6 bln pesos.
     Ayala Corp was down 0.20 at 6.10 while property unit Ayala Land dropped 0. 30 to 6.10.
     PLDT affiliate Pilipino Telephone was down 0.10 at 1.50.
     Meralco B, open to foreign investors was down 0.50 at 33, while Meralco A fell 0.75 to 20.25.
     Petron Corp was down 0.20 at 2.90.
     The all-shares index was down 6.72 points at 943.89.
     The commercial-industrial index fell 42.19 to 2,316.30.
     Property dropped 13.78 to 564.23 while mining shed 55.54 to 1,582.22.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.30.
     Banking and financial services fell 16.64 to 464.77
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' Arroyo vows to deal 'sternly' with military plotters


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - President Gloria Arroyo today insisted her government is secure following the arrest of six military officers for inciting rebellion and vowed to deal "sternly" with the plotters.
     "The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is on top of the situation as far as the latest incident is concerned. That incident is an isolated incident," Arroyo said in a speech marking the 13th anniversary of the national police force.
     "Our nation is safe," she said.
     Arroyo said there is no widespread support for any plot to destabilize the government. The officers appeared on television late yesterday accusing the government of spying on presidential rivals ahead of May 10 polls.
     "This is another case of partisan exploitation of military adventurism. The (military) will impose the commensurate level of discipline against its erring members and the (justice department) shall file charges against those found culpable," Arroyo said.
     "We will deal sternly with violations of the chain of command."
     Officials said the six officers detained are being interrogated.
     They said the officers were engaged in a plot to incite rebellion or destabilize the government ahead of the May elections, in which Arroyo is seeking a second term.
     Last year, Arroyo quashed a military mutiny in what government said was part of a larger plot to assassinate the president and replace her with a junta.
 

 

Philippines Jan CPI seen up 3.0 pct yr-on-yr vs up 3.1 pct in Dec - Neri


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippines' Consumer Price Index (CPI) is expected to show a rise of 3.0 pct year-on-year in January, a little slower than the 3.1 pct in December, Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said.
     Central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura earlier said he expects the annualized inflation rate to come in at 3.0-3.5 pct in the first two months of the year.
     The government is targeting inflation of 4-5 pct for this year.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine peso weaker partly due to govt destabilization rumors - Tetangco


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Fresh rumors of destabilization attempts against the government are partly to blame for the peso's plunge to new record lows this morning against the US dollar, central bank's deputy governor Amando Tetangco said.
     Dollar buying by corporates for their month-end requirements and a strong US currency following a reworked US Federal Reserve policy statement, which was widely seen as opening the door to US rate hikes, also pulled down the local unit, he said.
     At 9.13 am, the peso averaged 56.056 to the dollar after falling to as low as 56.12 on volume of 32 mln usd. It opened at 55.950, already weaker than yesterday's close of 55.900.
     "The peso is weaker because of a number of things. First is the strong US dollar because of the Fed saying they are prepared to raise rates. Second is the corporate month-end requirements. Third is the rumored destabilization plot against the government, which is part of the overall political scenario, " Tetangco said.
     Asked if the central bank is intervening in the market, he said: "No comment."
     He said the central bank is reviewing banks' foreign exchange transactions on a regular basis.
     Six military officers have been arrested for inciting rebellion against President Gloria Arroyo's government, Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.
     The six, who have been detained by the Philippine Army, were part of a group within the armed forces who came out on television yesterday demanding the resignation of Ermita.
     The group accused the defense secretary of spying on Arroyo's rivals for the presidential election in May as well as "consolidating efforts so that the forthcoming elections will not push through as scheduled."
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine military officers held for "inciting rebellion"


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Six Philippine military officers have been arrested for inciting rebellion against President Gloria Arroyo's government, officials said.
     The six, who have been detained by the Philippine Army, were part of a group within the armed forces who came out on television late Wednesday demanding the resignation of Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
     The group accused the defense secretary of spying on Arroyo's rivals for the presidential election in May as well as "consolidating efforts so that the forthcoming elections will not push through as scheduled."
     "We have six in custody and they are being investigated," Ermita said. "We are investigating and looking for other members."
     He said the group had violated the chain of command and could be liable for violating articles of war by urging the public to turn against Arroyo's government.
     The group in a statement faxed to news agencies late Wednesday said they were denouncing "in the strongest terms possible the shameful and dangerous politicization" of the armed forces. They said government has co-opted the "corrupt and greedy in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) chain of command."
     "We are your protectors and will not fail you when all else will. We will refuse to be accomplices to the betrayal of the weak and the innocent to the special interests of immoral leadership," the statement said.
     Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye assured the public that the armed forces were solidly behind Arroyo, who last year survived a military mutiny by a separate group of junior military officers.
     "Firstly, this situation is under control and those involved in this plot are under interrogation already by the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Bunye said over local radio.
     "There appears to be no related movements (by troops) in other areas of our country," he said, adding that the military was investigating whether civilians were involved.
     "It is clear there was a violation of articles of war in this aborted plot." Interior Secretary Jose Lina branded the the development a "destabilization move against the administration" and said national police were coordinating with the military leadership.
 

 


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