, JUNE 8, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo ended her visit to China yesterday by convincing a huge delegation of businessmen from Chongqing to go to the Philippines next month to look at possible areas of investment.

Armed with her own large delegation of businessmen from the Philippines, most of whom are executives of top Chinese-Filipino-owned businesses, the President called for stronger bilateral relations.

As the largest city in China and the only state-level municipality in central and western China, the President said that Chongqing is “an ideal city to develop the Philippines’ engagement with the country’s western development strategy.”

“Here in Chongqing, at the very heart of China, in what was once an underdeveloped region, we find today the largest city in the world. You have a choice geographic location at the end node of the great Yangtze inland waterway that quickly makes you China’s economic center, not just a geographic center,” Mrs. Arroyo said in her speech before the 2007 China (Chongqing)-Philippines Trade and Investment Forum at the Chongqing International Conference and Exhibition Center.

“We hope that, with our visit, there would be more bilateral exchanges between the Philippines and Chongqing, especially in the fields of trade, services, investments and tourism,” she added.

Following a meeting with Chongqing Mayor Wang Hongju the other day, it was decided that a business, cultural and science and technology delegation of more than 200 people from Chonqing will visit the Philippines next month to look for business opportunities.

“We have given instructions to our Ambassador to China that she should prepare a good program for the delegation,” the President said. “We are building Southeast Asia’s next success story. We invite you, our friends in Chongqing, to be a part of it.”

Trade Secretary Peter Favila, who was part of the President’s official delegation, told the business leaders in Chongqing that the Philippines has one of the best investment climates in the region and has long been an important trade partner of China.

Favila said China is the Philippines’ third top trading partner, its fourth largest export market and fifth largest supplier of imports.

In the first quarter of 2007, the Philippines exported close to $1.5 billion worth of products to China, accounting for 11.7 percent of total Philippine exports during that period.

Over the same period, imports from China amounted to $887 million, which is 7.4 percent of total Philippine imports.

“China is our fourth largest source of approved foreign direct investments, next to Korea, the United States and Japan. China’s investments in the Philippines today make up 10.8 percent of our total foreign direct investments,” Favila said in his presentation at the forum.

He presented the potential investors with an array of incentives that the government could provide – such as four to eight years of income tax holiday; a special five-percent tax rate on gross income after the lapse of the income tax holiday; zero percent duty on imported capital equipment; and an exemption from the 12 percent input value-added tax on allowable local purchase of goods and services.

“Our country as a whole is a trade and investment opportunity,” Favila said.

He said the Chongqing investors can enter into agribusiness, energy, infrastructure, information and communications technology, research and development, mass or socialized housing, mining, motor vehicles and tourism.

There is now some exposure of Chongqing businesses in the Philippines – including Zongshen Motorcycle, which the President noted is now the number one Chinese brand in the Philippines.

The President met with Zongshen’s chairman Zou Zongshen at the Hilton Hotel the other night and was informed that the company is now investing in nickel mining and speedboat manufacturing in the Philippines.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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