Tariffs on oil cut

MANILA: President Gloria Arroyo has slashed tariffs on crude oil and refined products for six months to cushion the impact of record-high prices on the economy, the Philippines government said on Monday. Tariff levels, currently at three per cent, would be reduced to between two and zero per cent “based on certain triggers indexed to oil prices in the world market,” Arroyo said in an executive order released by the presidential palace Monday after being signed Friday. — AFP

US, V’nam trade deal

WASHINGTON: The United States and Vietnam say they have reached an agreement that paves the way for Vietnam to join the World Trade Organization and opens one of Asia’s fastest growing markets to US businesses. The economic agreement between the former war enemies, which officials hope to sign in June, is one of the final hurdles that Vietnam must clear to achieve its long-held ambition of joining the Geneva-based global commerce body. — AP

Machinery orders dip

TOKYO: Japan’s core private-sector machinery orders, a closely watched indicator of capital spending, slumped by a much bigger than expected 5.2 per cent in March, official figures showed Monday. Year-on-year, core private-sector machinery orders, which exclude particularly volatile demand from electric utilities and for ships, were down 1.6 per cent in March, the Cabinet Office said. The market had anticipated on average a month-on-month fall of about 0.1 per cent. Even the core orders are notoriously volatile. — AFP

Passengers to HK rise

HONG KONG: Hong Kong International Airport handled a record 3.8 million passengers in April, up 14.1 per cent from 3.33 million passengers in the same month last year, Airport Authority Hong Kong said. The growth was partly due to the Easter holiday and a trade fair in the nearby city of Guangzhou in mainland China, the authority said. Aircraft movements at the airport rose 10.6 per cent in April to 23,580, from 21,322 in April 2005. — AP

Enron trial nears end

HOUSTON: By Wednesday, the fates of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling will be in the hands of a dozen jurors. Before the jury of eight women and four men retire to deliberate on Wednesday, US District Judge Sim Lake on Monday will give jurors detailed instructions on what they can and cannot consider as they hash out a verdict in the fraud and conspiracy trial. Then lawyers on both sides will take their last shot on Monday and Tuesday at persuading the panel to decide the case their way. — AP

Tourist arrivals rise

MANILA: Visitor arrivals to the Philippines rose 11 per cent year-on-year to 712,076 in the first four months of this year, the immigration department said on Monday. There was also a 23 per cent rise in the number of foreigners who had their tourist visas extended, or more than 86,000 tourists, it said. “This dramatic rise in visa extension applications indicates that more and more foreigners are coming here either for business or pleasure,” immigration chief Alipio Fernandez said. — AFP