NOVEMBER 1, 2006 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo declared here yesterday that the Philippine "economic rebound" is underway, making the country ripe for investments.

"In the Philippines the poverty rate is down, the per capita income is at an all-time high and we are on track for a balanced budget," Mrs. Arroyo said in a speech at the 3rd China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit or CABIS.

Mrs. Arroyo and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao led the opening of CABIS and the Third China-ASEAN Expo or CAEXPO.

"The government has taken the difficult decisions to raise the additional revenues needed to invest in infrastructure and services to create an economic environment that is conducive to investment," she said.

"This commitment shows how serious we are about competing for foreign investment and the job that it creates," she said.

She reiterated her call on Chinese businessmen to invest more in the Philippines, particularly in the areas of mining, infrastructure development, agriculture, fisheries and housing.

"Our workforce is well-educated, productive and English speaking,’’ she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said it was important for the Philippines and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN to boost economic cooperation with China, it being the world’s fastest growing economy and the most populous.

"The ASEAN region represents a market of over half a billion people for Chinese exports. In turn, we the ASEAN countries have reduced our divestments of western markets such as the United States and Europe," she said.

She cited the ASEAN-China Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement that paved the way for free trade between the two sides.

"The ASEAN-China FTA enables both parties to reduce and eliminate its tariff rates for a range of products," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the business and investment summit "bodes well for the theme, one future."

"We hope that one future is a secure life in every home and community in East Asia," she said. "We hope that one future will mean the effective banishment of hunger and poverty."

In a separate speech at the China-ASEAN Expo, Mrs. Arroyo said Filipino businessmen came looking for products to bring back to the country and also to discover industries in which Chinese and ASEAN could collaborate.

Mrs. Arroyo wrapped up her visit here yesterday and proceeded to Hong Kong for more business meetings and a brief holiday with her family.

Mrs. Arroyo visited Xiamen and Jinjiang in Fujian province as well as Nanchang and Guilin in Jiangxi province.

Here, she attended the ASEAN-China commemorative summit to celebrate the 15th year of the ASEAN-China Dialogue.

Mrs. Arroyo witnessed the signing of 15 business and other agreements between Chinese and Filipino companies, including a $1-billion financial and technical assistance by the Jinchuan Non Ferrous Materials Corp. to Philnico Industrial Corp. for its Nonoc nickel project in Surigao del Norte.

Mrs. Arroyo said Xiamen authorities also promised to send a mining team to the Philippines to explore possible areas of cooperation and business ventures. — With Pia Lee-Brago

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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