XIAMEN (via PLDT) — President Arroyo hailed here the final accord that will pave the way for the $1-billion Chinese investment in the Nonoc nickel project in Surigao del Norte, which is expected to provide up to 5,000 jobs in one of the poorest provinces in the country.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo assured Jinchuan Non-Ferrous Metals Corp. represented by its chairman Liyong Jun in a meeting here on Friday that the Philippines would address all the company’s concerns.
Mrs. Arroyo described the project as the biggest single investment in the country by China, Bunye said.
Bunye said the Chinese firm wanted to be registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and get support from local government officials.
He said Mrs. Arroyo told the official that these would be ensured "because it is in the interest of Surigao to invite this substantial investment."
The President witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Jinchuan and the Philippines’ Philnico Industrial Corp. for the $1-billion investment.
"After having been mothballed for quite a number of years, we are very optimistic about the resumption of operations (of Nonoc)," he said.
Jinchuan’s official said the $1-billion investment of Jinchuan had already been assured by the China Development Bank. The project will also be undertaken with Bao steel, the biggest steel manufacturing company in China.
"It’s very important to talk... this project got the high attention of both China and Philippine presidents... We had a happy recall of when we first talked about the project," Liyong said.
"We have to find settlement, ways to solve problems of project," he said.
Mrs. Arroyo earlier approved the debt restructuring of Nonoc so that investors would be encouraged to operate it.
"Because without properly resolving this, this project cannot go smoothly," she said.
Philnico president and chairman Evaristo Narvaez Jr. said the joint venture agreement with the three Chinese companies would already be finalized and construction could start by middle of next year.
"The project can start production by early 2009. They want an FTAA financial and technical assistance (to the project)," he said.
With the liberalized mining policy upheld by the Supreme Court, a foreign company can now own majority ownership of a mining project.
"There are no more obstacles because the government and Philnico and these three companies have agreed on the basic terms and conditions on reactivation of Nonoc project. It was closed in 1987," Narvaez said.
"Upon the start of construction, it will immediately give work to over 3,000 construction workers, engineers and other skilled people in Surigao. It will mean export revenues of $350 million every year," he added.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes said he was expecting the project to "set the mood and tone for investments."
"It will herald the coming of Chinese investors. We’re optimistic it will be good for the country," he said.
He said the Philippine government would make the project proponents comply with all the environmental and social requirements so the people would accept and support it.
Various sectors, including Catholic bishops, are still opposed to mining.
"They must see to it that when they mine, they will not only be after profits, they should ensure, and we will make sure that the environment is protected. There should be social equity... alleviation of poverty," he said.