MANILA, MARCH 27, 2009
(STAR) By Marianne v. Go - Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose L. Atienza yesterday expressed optimism that the Philippines will be able to achieve its original investment target this year of $1 billion instead of its revised target of just $800 million.

Atienza was interviewed on Bloomberg TV in Singapore while attending the Asia Mining Congress. He said the DENR’s renewed optimism is due to the announced investment of Intex Resources and the start of production of at least four gold mining firms.

While acknowledging that the Philippines has been affected by the global economic recession, Atienza said “we have no reason to doubt that we will accomplish our targets.”

In fact, “we are sitting on a mountain of gold, he added.”

The DENR head stressed that “our mineral resources have kept investors focused on us.” He noted that there is a continuing investor interest in nickel production despite the current cyclical drop in nickel prices.

Atienza said nickel production this year is projected at around 100,000 tons of concentrate.

In his keynote address Wednesday, at the Asia Mining Congress in Singapore, Atienza assured potential investors that the Philippine government continues to addresss the peace and order concern through the creation of an Investment Defense Force.

He said the government would continue to “support and pursue” the more than 60 mining development, exploration and mineral processing projects that have been identified as part of the Philippine mining sector’s revitalization program.

These include the Xstrata/Sagittarious Mines Tampakan copper project, Sumitomo’s high pressure acid leach (HPAL) project and Intex Resources’ Mindoro nickel and fertilizer project.

The DENR chief also cited the start of production of two gold mines, that of Filminera Resources Corp.’s Masbate project and Philsaga Mining Corp. in Agusan.

Atienza also mentioned Carmen Copper Corp.’s Cebu mine which is slated to start operation this year.

“The operation of these three mines,” Atienza said, “amidst the crisis, is a significant achievement for us.”

Atienza pointed out that the entry of “some large Philippine corporations, who are acknowledged leaders in their core businesses, also augurs well for our mining industry.”

Atienza noted that “once the world recovers from the crisis, the developing world is expected to drive global growth” with demand coming from China and India, as well as from Japan and Korea.

“We believe that our growth prospects remain excellent. The industry’s growth may slow down, projects might be delayed, but we believe that long-term prospects remain good,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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