THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it will provide support for efforts to discover deposits of “critical minerals” like iron, cobalt, rare earths, as well as nickel.

Speaking at a forum organized by the Philippine Nickel Industry Association, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said on Tuesday that “starting in 2024 through the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and a new office for integrated environmental science, we will be concentrating on priority activities” like “extensive government led exploration for critical minerals.”

She said that the DENR is also directing the MGB to focus on enabling mineral exploration next year through partnerships with foreign investors.

“This effort would be augmented by technical support coming from our foreign development partners, including the Australian government and the US Geological Survey,” she added.

Ms. Yulo-Loyzaga also said that the DENR is seeking to “promote and enable” domestic mineral processing, particularly for laterite, a rock with high iron and aluminum content.

These initiatives “aim to maximize the value of our mineral resources… (for use in) our own energy transition and economic development,” she said.

Ms. Yulo-Loyzaga also said that the DENR remains focused on pursuing a policy that assigns greater weight to “the avoidance of all possible environmental impact.”

In a statement issued also on Tuesday, the DENR said it has signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the Manila Observatory for a climate change information system.

Under the MoA, a digital database of climate and environment will be made available to the public, particularly to local government units, other National Government agencies, schools, civil society organizations, and the private sector. — Adrian H. Halili