MAKATI CITY Philippines — The Philippines has benefited from the widespread use of technology all over the world helping create 125 000 good jobs for young Filipinos in the call center and outsourcing business according to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Speaking before a gathering of local and international businessmen at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel on March 16 Arroyo said “There is a revolution in technology that all you know about because you’re movers and shakers of the world and this shift in technology is linking the world creating new collaboration and opportunity like no other time in world history.”

Arroyo spoke to the theme of the Asia-Pacific Council of the American Chambers of Commerce’s 2006 meeting “Is the World Really Flat?” and said “Yes the world is flat. And the flatter it gets the more it helps the Philippines create a new economy and leave behind an old economy and an old political system.”

During her speech Arroyo also expressed her administration’s firm commitment to economic reforms specifically aimed at increasing government revenues and reducing corruption. As she was speaking 500 agents of the Philippine Bureau of Customs raided storeowners at the popular 168 mall in Divisoria Manila for allegedly smuggling in retail goods. “This is going to fight corruption this is going to raise revenues this is going to protect businessmen who are doing legitimate productions ” she said. Aside from smuggled goods fake branded clothing are also sold at the mall.

On Feb. 15 the United States Trade Representative downgraded the Philippines from its Special 301 Priority Watch List of intellectual property rights violators and placed it on the Ordinary Watch List.

In a meeting with Philippine government officials on March 16 Ambassador Karan K. Bhatia deputy US trade representative and one of the speakers at the APCAC conference urged the Philippines to improve its enforcement of IPR laws and to prosecute more violators.

He said the Philippine government should implement an education and information campaign so the public will realize that the purchase of fake and pirated goods is theft.

Speaking to reporters at the APCAC conference Bhatia said “People must appreciate that this is theft and that it is no different from stealing items on the shelf.” He added “Vigorous IPR enforcement would attract investments.”

Meanwhile American businessmen applauded the speech of Arroyo who only a few weeks before the conference had lifted the state of national emergency she declared due to an alleged coup attempt against her. She continues to come under heavy attack from the political opposition who question the legitimacy of her election into office last year.

Robert Sears executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines told the Journal “The President gave a good speech. She talked about anti-corruption and if she and the administration and the other branches of government can implement it it would be fantastic.”

He applauded the lifting of the state of emergency saying it was a “positive move on the part of the government and “good for the international community.” AmCham Philippines had been very vocal about its opposition to the state of emergency and had asked the president to lift it immediately.

Sears said that Americans who have been doing business in the Philippines for many years were unperturbed by the declaration. “We’re actually used to the rhetoric and the noise. We took that position [urging the President to lift the state of emergency] because of potential investors as opposed to players that are here.”

Meanwhile Peter B. Favila Trade and Industry secretary said the Philippines considers the U.S. business community as an important partner in the road to development. “A flat world represents a strong case for intensified public-private partners and it is precisely this kind of participative governance that we hope to build on as we take the Philippine economy forward into a new era of prosperity.”

In his speech before APCAC members on March 16 he said American investors have the largest bulk of investments in the Philippines in the information and communication services sector with revenues of more $2.5 billion annually.

Aside from the information and telecommunications sector the automotive industry also offers “good opportunities” for American investors. Automotive exports grew 14% last year. Favila also cited the logistics sector as offering attractive prospects to the businessmen as well “given the geographic setting of the country and the positioning of the Subic and Clark corridor as an important logistics hub.”

The U.S. remains the Philippines’ largest trading partner accounting for about 18% of total trade in 2005. Electronics and clothing apparel continue to dominate Philippine exports to the U.S. while top imports include electronic components used in manufacturing machinery and equipment fresh and processed food chemicals and textile yarns.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas the Philippines central monetary authority showed that net direct investments of Americans in the country amounted to $224.37 million from January to September last year up a whopping 143% from $92.23 million recorded in the same period in 2004. U.S. investments accounted for almost 28% of total net foreign direct investments last year up from just the 19% the investments represented in the same period in 2004.

Net FDIs refer to nonresident placements less the sum of nonresident withdrawals reinvested earnings and net intercompany loans. MBJ