MANILA, AUGUST 10, 2008 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - Malacañang said there was nothing wrong with President Arroyo witnessing the signing of a mineral exploration agreement of her former chief of staff shortly after landing in China earlier this week.

Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said the signing of a memorandum of understanding between former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor and Chinese businessmen was part of government efforts to bring investments into the country.

He said there was nothing irregular about the presence of the President during the signing and that it was part of her mission to invite more Chinese investments into the Philippines.

A number of senators questioned the action of the President in the signing and were quick to recall her doing the same thing in the controversial NBN-ZTE deal in Boao, China in 2007.

Defensor represented the Nihao Mineral Resources International Inc. and Geograce Resources Philippines Inc. as the chairman and director, respectively, which signed the MOU with Chinese firms Jiangxi Rare Earth and the Rare Metals Tungsten Group.

The deal involves the exploration for nickel in Botolan, Zambales and the construction of an ore processing plant.

According to the senators, Mrs. Arroyo should have declined publicly endorsing such a project in light of the controversies surrounding two other China-backed projects, the NBN-ZTE and Northrail.

Golez said the signing was officially part of the investments that would be coming into the country as a result of the presidential visit to China.

“Mike Defensor, a former Cabinet secretary, brought the new investors to the country. Everyone, including his detractors, are invited to do the same,” Golez said.

“There’s no limit to our need for more investors which will eventually contribute more jobs in our country,” he added.

Golez said all investors are welcome in the country “for as long as all the government requirements and laws are followed.”

The Botolan, Zambales project is expected to bring in at least $100 million in new investments to the country.

Chinese businessmen who met with Mrs. Arroyo during her visit to China have committed up to $6 billion in investments in cement production, real estate, call centers and other ventures in Philippines.

Real estate developer Sunshine 100 International, who committed to the President to develop low and medium-cost housing projects, disclosed its plan to infuse more money into the country.

Alfonso Sy of Sunshine 100 Pioneer, the local partner of the Chinese real estate developer, said that the firm would infuse another $5 billion investments in the Philippines.

Philippine Sunshine has already started the construction of eight condominium towers on a 1.25-hectare property at the Mall of Asia area in Pasay City.

According to Sy, the group is also putting up a small mall and three towers for call centers along Pioneer street in Mandaluyong.

Fujian Longlin Group Co. Ltd., which operates 100 cement plants all over China, would also be putting up a $275-million cement plant in the Philippines.

Another Chinese company in the field of mineral exploration and processing, the Wei-Wei Group, plans to put up a $100-million nickel processing plant in Zambales.

After attending the luncheon reception hosted by Chinese President Hu Jintao for world leaders attending the Olympics opening ceremonies at the Great Hall of the People, Mrs. Arroyo met with Xu Rongmao of the Shimao Group, who reiterated his plan to set up a hotel complex at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Xu, known to be the second richest man in China, told the President that his company is investing $700 million in the hotel project in cooperation with Andrew Tan of Megaworld.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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