Manila May Seek Loan To Assess Volcano Damage

MANILA -- The Philippines, hit by volcanic eruptions after being battered by an earlier series of calamities and the Gulf crisis, is preparing to pass the borrowing hat around again.

Finance Under Secretary Romeo Bernardo said the heavily indebted country may seek a loan package similar to one sought by Manila for the reconstruction of areas devastated by a big earthquake last July.

Mr. Bernardo told reporters that the Philippines would initially ask the Asian Development Bank for a technical assistance grant in order to assess the damage from the eruptions, which brought Mount Pinatubo to life on June 9 after 600 years of dormancy.

Temporary Dislocation

Results of the survey would serve as the basis for Manila's request for assistance from foreign creditors, who were scheduled to meet in Paris on Tuesday to consider Manila's request to reschedule some $1.6 billion in loans.

The government has initially assessed damage at almost $200 million, excluding two major American military bases, but the civil defense office said the figure was expected to rise as fresh reports come in from four affected provinces.

"The Philippine economy may be temporarily dislocated if the Americans directly employing about 70,000 of our people in the bases would withdraw," Herman Montenegro, vice president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

Mount Pinatubo's eruptions triggered mudflows and a sandstorm that hit agriculture and infrastructure, but businessmen and analysts believe the Americans' evacuation will have greater impact on investor confidence.

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