US companies including Baby Togs, Ann Taylor and Perry Ellis/Salant have pledged orders worth at least $103 million (P5.25 billion) with Philippine garment manufacturers over the next 12 months. Leading the pack is Liz Claiborne, which is looking to spend around $59.6 million on locally produced apparel, an increase of 15 per cent on last year's $51.8 million.

The flood of new business follows a recent sales drive organised by The Garments and Textiles Export Board (GTEB).

Reporting on the results of the initiative, the GTEB said that women's apparel brand Ann Taylor would increase its orders from the Philippines by $20 million this year. Baby and children's wear label Baby Togs pledged an extra $3 million worth of orders, and men's apparel buyer Perry Ellis/Salant was hoping to hike its Philippine purchases by eight per cent, with possible new orders for cotton knit shirts, pants and shorts using manmade fibres and cotton sweaters.

American Eagle Outfitters, Pretty Talks Inc of Canada, and Nautica also expressed interest in products from Philippine garments makers.

According to GTEB executive director Felicitas Agoncillo-Reyes, American retailers expect retail activity to pick up by next year - which will prove beneficial to local exporters.

Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas said the initiative had succeeded in reinforcing the confidence of American buyers in the Philippines as a stable, dependable, responsive and forward-looking supplier. But he advised local manufacturers to maintain product quality so that they can compete with other players in the industry both at home and abroad.