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Palace admits mining MoU with China’s ZTE Corp

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But says only ‘preliminary’

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:58:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang admitted that the government forged a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on mining in the southern Philippines with China’s ZTE Corp., the same firm it signed up for the now-scrapped and scandal-tainted national broadband network (NBN) deal.

However, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the deal with the Chinese firm was a mere “preliminary agreement” on its “intent to invest.”

Trade Secretary Peter Favila signed the MoU on behalf of the government.

Lawyer Harry Roque had threatened to file graft charges against Favila, saying the deal violates a constitutional ban on allowing foreigners to engage in mining operations in the country.

Asked if the agreement violated the Constitution, Dureza said in a text message: “We will leave that to the legal [experts].”

At a news conference at the Palace, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he was not privy to the details of the MoU but added he was “very sure that Secretary Favila will not allow violations to the Constitution.”

In an interview on radio station dzXL, Dureza said no ground exploration has been undertaken yet by ZTE since the MoU is just a preliminary deal.

Dureza also took a swipe at Roque for constantly exposing alleged anomalies in government.

“Look at attorney Roque, with due respect to him, it looks like he’s the one tasked to expose these issues. And I know that some groups have an agenda to destroy this administration, so that in 2010, the administration will become very bad in the eyes of the public,” Dureza said.

Roque was the one who exposed the alleged funneling of more than P700 million in fertilizer funds to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign kitty in the 2004 elections.

Early this year, Arroyo scrapped the $329-million deal with ZTE after the Senate opened an inquiry into allegations of overpricing and kickbacks to which resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and her husband, Jose Miguel, were linked.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-09-09T11:46:40+00:00UTC09bUTCTue, 09 Sep 2008 11:46:40 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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