MANILA -- Twenty-three foreign banks have applied for permission to open branches in the Philippines, the Central Bank said.

Central Bank Governor Gabriel Singson said the number of applicants, encouraged by a banking-law change that is expected to take effect soon, is up from 15 two weeks ago.

Most of the applicants are from Japan and other Pacific Rim states, but it also includes Deutsche Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Chemical Banking Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Bank of Boston Corp., and American Express Bank.

The law allows only 10 new foreign entrants. The rest would have to form ventures with Filipino partners.

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