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RP in a race against economic challenges - PGMA

Manila (26 February) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that the Philippines is in a race against economic challenges and the country must?move quickly "if we are to ensure that our economy stays on path."

Addressing a gathering of local and international investors at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City this morning, the President said her administration will act with deliberate haste to address these challengesat a time of deepening global economic crunch.

Pursuing her theme that there's no time to waste, the President said in a?message beamed to government leaders: "Let's not wait for Congress to pass this or that because we have lump sums in our budget," referring to?the government's economic stimulus program.

"Let's not wait for the private sector to come up with their part of the promised P100-billion private sector fund. Let's work on our P50-billion contribution," she added.

The President assured the nation that the massive spending to further stimulate the economy and sustain economic growth will not be made at the expense of fiscal prudence.

"We cannot abandon our hard-fought gains in fiscal discipline. We may increase the deficit, yes, but it must be a finite number and not the sky is the limit. We must have a projection, a ceiling that we will stay under.

"We are well aware that that we must both spend wisely and be prudent if we are to leave our country in a healthy condition for the next generation.

"That is the road we were on before the onset of this global crisis. That is the road on which we would like the country to continue when this challenge has passed," she stressed.

The President admitted that the global financial crisis now appears to be worse than most people had anticipated.

But she pointed out that she remains cautiously optimistic that the Philippines can be insulated from the full blow that most of the world is now experiencing.

"Yet, we realize that with each passing day, that objective becomes a greater challenge and therefore we must always be ready to innovate," she said.

She said that the biggest challenge confronting the country is the "challenge of jobs."

Before proceeding to Dusit Thani Hotel to address the "Philippine Economic Briefing," the President said she dropped by at the jobs fair being held at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) along Ortigas Ave. in Mandaluyong City where she had an interaction with Filipino workers some of whom were recruited on the spot for employment abroad.

She said she hoped that the employment numbers for Filipinos abroad will continue and so far, there has not been a major slump. Last year, 5,500 Filipino expatriate workers lost their jobs but that number remains largely the same.

Since last year, 39,000 domestic workers, mostly in the export sector like?electronics, garments, auto parts, and mining have been displaced.

The good news is 3,000 new jobs are being processed daily, she said.

Moreover, the President said that many displaced workers are finding new job opportunities as self-employed. Some have gone into food processing, garments, perfume-making, meat-processing and other livelihood projects.

She said she has been hearing that the Philippines was lucky compared to other countries now caught in the cusp of the global crisis.

The thing is "we worked hard to be lucky. We have been able to cushion the blow today because of the pain we endured yesterday.

"With the support of Congress and our dedicated civil servants, we took the economic reform medicine and improved our banking system, raised?revenue, cracked down on smugglers and streamline our revenue system," the President said. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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