, MAY 30, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy – A total of $1.23 billion in actual and potential investments and agreements were committed by various businesses in New Zealand at the conclusion of the state visit of President Arroyo yesterday.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila, who was part of the official delegation of the President in her state visits to New Zealand and Australia, told reporters here that the trip has opened the doors of New Zealand and the Philippines for more trade and investments.

“I’ll sum up this trip (by saying) that it is something very encouraging. It’s not a new market, but a market out there that we were not able really to tap the potentials in the past. Now the doors are open for us,” Favila said.

Favila, along with Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and a number of representatives from Philippine business groups, attended a day-long business forum with New Zealand businessmen yesterday to discuss areas for possible expansion in trade and investments.

“They were saying they have not been to the Philippines but with the presentation that we had shown them (which) explained to them the opportunities around these days, they said they will pay a visit,” Favila said.

Oceana Gold United, New Zealand’s biggest gold mining firm, reaffirmed its commitment to put in another $150 million in the Philippines.

In a call to Mrs. Arroyo last Monday at New Zealand’s capital Wellington, Oceana Gold chief executive officer Stephen Orr confirmed his company’s $150 million gold and copper mining project in Dibipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

“They’re on schedule. They told the President that they would like to see this as a model of mining operations in the Philippines. They have a name and reputation to protect. They assured the President this is going to be a template of a responsible mining activity,” Favila said.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes said that Oceana’s Nueva Vizcaya operations would be on-stream by 2009.

Reyes said that the Philippine delegation has also successfully invited members of the timber and logging industry of New Zealand to look into outsourcing their wood processing operations to the Philippines.

Philippine Wood Producers Association president Antonio Olizon, who was also in Auckland for the business forum, informed the New Zealand timber companies that the Philippines has idle capacities in wood processing and could very well accommodate them.

Olizon said that basic wood processing alone would already account for an estimated $44 million to $50 million annually.

Reyes said that the Philippines could process the wood into raw materials or furniture and then ship these out to the markets or back to New Zealand.

In terms of agricultural products, Favila said that they were able to register $30 million in sales of tropical fruits to New Zealand.

Yap, who represented the Philippine delegation to discuss the opportunities in agriculture, said that the country would be exporting bananas, mangoes, pineapples and dried banana chips to New Zealand.

“Big wholesalers and retailers talked to us for fresh fruits and processed goods for their food mixes. We’re studying the possibilities of how to supply them. So this is good news that I can bring back to our exporters,” Yap said.

Yap also met with the biggest dairy company in New Zealand, the Fonterra Group, to discuss the possibility of the Philippines processing some of the company’s dairy products.

He said that Earl Rattaray, a member of the board of Fonterra, expressed interest in the idea pitched by the Philippine delegation.

However, Fonterra wanted the Philippines to first build up its dairy herd as well as the supply of milk before coming in.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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