MANILA -- The government of President Corazon Aquino, in an unprecedented move against the press, has ordered the expulsion of an Australian journalist for articles criticizing the Philippines as a bad place for business investment.

The order Tuesday against Michael Byrnes, correspondent of the Australian Financial Review, was based on a recommendation from Manila's ambassador in Australia regarding a Nov. 26 article saying Australian investors "should be more selective and informed, concentrating on the successful economies of the region and avoiding the lemons."

Philippine officials said Byrnes' articles were "subversive," aimed at discouraging Australian businesses from coming here. In a Nov. 12 commentary, he called the Philippines one of the most corrupt countries in Asia.

Since Aquino came to power in February 1986, the Philippines has been widely considered to have the freest and liveliest press in the region. Lately, though, Aquino has complained of negative press coverage and the government has taken several lesser actions against the media.

The expulsion order appeared to spark confusion and debate within the government. Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus upheld the expulsion order, overruling an earlier move by Press Secretary Teodoro Benigno to rescind it. But at the same time Manglapus invited Byrnes to appeal.