THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it pitched Australian companies on critical minerals, renewable energy (RE), education, and agriculture projects at the Philippine Business Forum staged in conjunction with the visit by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to Canberra.

“We see opportunities for Australian businesses to invest in the Philippines’ priority sectors such as critical minerals, renewable energy, education and training, and agriculture,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said in a statement.

He said over 300 Australian companies currently employ 40,000 workers in various industries in the Philippines.

“(The) potential collaboration in priority sectors is aligned with Australia’s Southeast Asia Economy Strategy 2024, which promotes the transition to a greener economy and achieving a low-carbon future,” he added.

Trade between the Philippines and Australia amounted to $4.1 billion last year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to DTI.

“To further enhance trade and investment relations, the Philippines has recently signed essential policy instruments, such as the Second Protocol of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA),” the DTI said.

Last month, the DTI signed the new protocol which contains chapters on government procurement, trade and sustainable development, and micro, small and medium enterprises.

The instrument also added new rules under the Trade in Goods and Customs Procedure chapters to address non-tariff measures.

The business forum builds on the Philippines-Australia Ministerial meeting in October with the aim of fostering new connections and networking opportunities for the Philippine delegation, which included the DTI, Department of Finance, Department of Energy, and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

Mr. Marcos attended the event with Speaker Martin G. Romualdez and Special Assistant to the President for Investments and Economic Affairs Secretary Frederick D. Go.

“With our shared and unwavering commitment to firmly pursue a more dynamic, open, and sustained partnership, we are poised to reap the benefits of a robust Philippines-Australia relationship,” said Mr. Pascual.

During the event, Mr. Pascual announced 12 business deals with Australian companies involving $1.53 billion in investments. The agreements included industries like renewable energy, waste-to-energy technology, organic recycling, and data centers.

“These sectors are indicative of future Philippines-Australia business engagement. They serve as tangible outcomes of investment promotion and will anchor ongoing and future Philippines-Australia business engagements,” he said.

PEZA Director General Tereso O. Panga said the Philippine deal participants were long-time PEZA investors Integrated Micro-electronics, Inc. and Filinvest – Clark Green City.

On the sidelines of the forum, Mr. Panga and Mr. Pascual met with Australia’s Plentex Ltd. to discuss the company’s plan to set up an aquaculture farm and food processing facilities in Leyte and Samar.

“The proposal falls squarely within the President’s food security agenda and one of PEZA’s priorities under the leadership of Director General Panga to pursue the development of aquamarine or blue ecozones in support of the proposed Blue Economy Act,” the investment promotion agency said.

To date, PEZA has 130 Australian-owned locators accounting for P14.28 billion worth of investment, generating almost $1 billion in annual exports. — Justine Irish D. Tabile