Philippines seeks to join Japan-US critical minerals deal

Instead of a separate bilateral agreement, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shared that the Philippine government is proposing to accede to the current critical minerals deal between the United States and Japan.

In a press briefing on April 19, DTI Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said that he proposed this during the Trilateral Economic Ministers Meeting last April 11, noting the importance of the Philippines becoming a party to the agreement in order to ensure “resilience of critical minerals supply”.

Pascual said that no common agreement has been made yet, but the proposal was received well by their Japanese and American counterparts US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Minister Ken Saito of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) in Japan.

“The Japanese are open to it. Well, at least the Secretary of Commerce, of course, she doesn't have full say on this, they'll take it up within the US government,” he remarked.

If this proposal is considered, Pascual highlighted that the trilateral deal will enable “assurance of supply.”

“Kasi kung may agreement tayo, may priority yung partners natin to get the supply (If we have this agreement, our partners have priority to get the supply). Ang advantage sa atin (The advantage to us is) we will be able to attract US companies to invest in mineral processing in the Philippines,” he said.

The Philippines can contribute to the potential trilateral deal by exporting its abundance of nickel ores, which Japan currently does not produce. Sumitomo has a processing plant in the country that sources nickel ores locally.

Currently, 90 percent of the Philippines’ nickel ores are exported to China, noted Pascual, “giving them a major hold on the nickel market, particularly the downstream products coming out from nickel, meaning battery precursors and batteries.”

Given that the Philippines remains to be the only major producer of mineral ores since Indonesia banned its export of nickel ores, the Philippines’ exports to China “would affect the supply needed by countries like Japan, and eventually US,” he added.

Moreover, the deal will also increase the Philippines’ visibility as a preferred destination for investments from American and Japanese businesses in the critical minerals sector.

Pascual emphasized the country’s growing middle class and young population, as well as rich natural resources that can be attractive to foreign investors.