Things were bleak at the beginning of the year, but now the Philippines is looking like the place to be for the U.S. Big Three and their suppliers. Thanks to big new incentives and a weak Philippine peso, General Motors, Chrysler and their key suppliers are considering making substantial investments in the country. Their interest follows Ford's decision to build an assembly complex in Laguna, outside Manila.

Two years ago, GM rejected the Philippines in favor of Thailand for an assembly plant site, but it's now taking another look, saying it's impressed with how the government is managing the economy.

Currency volatility in the region, which weakened the peso, forced banks to tighten credit in the latter part of 1997, hurting vehicle sales.

Chrysler, which set up a regional office in Singapore last year says it will expand in the region as well.

This new buildup is not without controversy. Ford reportedly will pay no income tax for six years and will be exempt from other taxes as well.

Ford left the Philippines in 1983 amid political turmoil. Its return, and the potential return of GM and Chrysler, is aimed at gaining market share from Japanese automakers who have dominated the domestic market in recent years.