MANILA, November 13, 2005
 (STAR) By Aurea Calica And Delon Porcalla - Despite the controversy stirred up over the North Rail project, over $100 million in fresh Chinese investments will be infused into the country as proof that China remains confident in the Philippines, President Arroyo said yesterday.

Speaker Jose de Venecia said in a separate announcement that the Chinese government has signed an investment package of export-import contracts with the Philippines worth $763 million.

In a statement, the President thanked the Chinese government for bringing fresh investments into the Philippines during the courtesy call on Malacañang of Zhang Dejiang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Friday. Zhang is also secretary of the CPC Guangdong Committee.

Zhang told the President that during the 2005 China (Guangdong)-Philippines Business Seminar at the Manila Hotel Friday, 13 agreements worth $142 million were signed between Chinese and Filipino firms dealing in garments, coconut, chemicals and information technology, among other ventures, signed by representatives of 183 Chinese firms based in Guangdong province and 800 Filipino business leaders and industrialists.

The biggest of the agreements was a $30-million project of Linetone International Mining Co., Cocony Investors (SPV AML) Inc. and JCET Resources Mining Corp. for possible mining ventures in the country

"I encourage our business people to go global, especially to the Philippines," Zhang said. China is the country’s third largest trading partner.

The President also told Zhang that Chinese citizens, mostly from Guangdong, top the list of foreign visitors in the Philippines.

The Chief Executive also expressed the Filipino people’s appreciation of the assistance extended them by the Chinese government.

"We are really thankful to your government, and for the Chinese government’s assistance to our major projects like the North Rail Development Project, and the unprecedented cooperation on security and defense," the President told Zhang.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier said Chinese President Hu Jintao complained about the delay in the $503-million North Rail project, but she assured him the Philippine government would see it through.

The project involves the rehabilitation of a 32-kilometer railway from Caloocan City to Malolos City in Bulacan using a loan secured from China’s Export-Import Bank and employer the China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. as contractor.

The Supreme Court has dismissed the petition of the University of the Philippines (UP) Law Center and the League of Urban Poor for Action to nullify the project, saying it was not a "trier of facts" and the petitioners should seek relief from lower courts or the court of appeals.

The petitioners said the project did not undergo public bidding and was severely overpriced. The UP Law Center said the project was the product of an agreement between two corporations rather than an agreement between two states, therefore laws on procurement should have been applied.

Zhang and his delegation of 550 Chinese businessmen arrived in Manila on Thursday upon De Venecia’s invitation.

De Venecia said "everything happened in less than 72 hours through people-to-people economic diplomacy," as he expressed elation over his meeting with Zhang and the rest of the Chinese delegation.

He said follow-through business meetings between Chinese and Filipino businessmen could push the total foreign investment from China up to $1 billion.

De Venecia said in a statement that Guangdong’s annual international trade exceeds $400 billion, which accounts for one-third of China’s annual trade with the Philippines.

He also expressed elation over the "stunning accomplishments of Zhang’s visit and economic diplomacy," adding that this is a "high-water mark in the Philippine-Chinese relationship" since Hu’s successful visit to Manila.

Acting Chinese Ambassador Xiao Qian and Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCCI) shared De Venecia’s elation over the accomplishments of Zhang’s business party.

China has opened its doors to massive inflows of foreign investments over the last two decades, De Venecia said. Some of its rich provinces with a population of more than 80 million are "like small nations that have grown economically powerful," he added.

"Guangdong is the gateway to China and the Philippines is the gateway to the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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