The Philippines’ economy has been hard hit by recessions in the European Union, Japan and the United States, its main export markets, as well as a severe drop in tourism due to the kidnapping of foreigners, according to Ray Donato, Atlanta-based consul general of the Philippines.

          Speaking to the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce, Inc., last week, Mr. Donato was optimistic, however, that the country’s economy would improve by 2003 when its main export markets strengthen.

          In his comments at the Szechuan Gardens Chinese Restaurant in Doraville, he added that the country’s economy, despite its problems, has benefited from lower energy prices, the discovery of natural gas and the continued repatriation of the overseas earnings of Filipino workers.

          He also said that the presence of U.S. troops on Mindanao Island to support Filipino troops fighting terrorists was politically controversial, but should provide greater stability in the future.

          U.S. companies such as Mirant Corp. and United Parcel Service would benefit in the long term from their presence in the country, he asserted.

          Mirant, the Atlanta-based energy company, is one of the largest foreign investors in the Philippines. UPS, also headquartered in Atlanta, is in the process of establishing an intra-Asia hub in the country for its package delivery business throughout the region.

          Mr. Donato may be reached at (404) 239-5740 or