NEW GUIDELINES that will reduce application processing time for exploration permits and mineral processing operations are due out this year, according to the Office of the Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs (OSAPIEA).

On the sidelines of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) General Membership Meeting on Friday, OSAPIEA Secretary Frederick D. Go said that the guidelines will be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Many foreign investors are interested, of course, to look at the exploration opportunities in the Philippines … because we have a lot of potential,” Mr. Go said.

Asked when he expects the guidelines to come out, he said, “Within the year.”

In a speech, Mr. Go named mining as one of the OSAPIEA’s priority sectors for investment, along with electronics and semiconductors, steel, food and agriculture, and pharmaceuticals.

“For mining, we aim to encourage investments by reducing the processing time to get exploration permits going and to follow the roadmap Indonesia has taken for downstream nickel processing,” he said.

“The Philippines is actually the number one nickel ore exporter in the world,” he added. “That means we are exporting the raw material without processing it. So our goal is to go downstream and start processing the nickel to enhance the value that we export.”

Mr. Go said that the end goal is for the country to develop its electric vehicle industry by laying the foundations today.

“So in a perfect world, we go from nickel ore, nickel processing, copper processing, and electric batteries, to electric vehicles,” he said.

“Again, in a perfect world, therefore, we will probably get to electric vehicles far beyond my term. But again, it’s important that we lay the foundations now,” he added.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice-President for Industry Affairs Ferdinand A. Ferrer said that the chamber is also working on improving foreign ties to find new markets and invite more investment.

“We’re trying to look for new markets for our members, and we’re working with different foreign partners to bring their technology here,” Mr. Ferrer said.

“There is a lot of genuine interest in our country. Maybe it’s because of geopolitical happenings, but regardless of that, now they’re seeing the benefits of the Philippines geographically and also in its people,” he added.

He said that the Philippines has the talent and the resources to process minerals, which is why the country must invest in the sector.

“We have the resources; we have the nickel, as you heard. So why will we just export ore? We must process the mineral and add value to it so that we will not be shortchanged,” he added.

He said that bringing in new technology from overseas will push the country to upskill its human resources.

“That’s why we will bring in high-tech and future-type businesses, and we are working with our government agencies now on upskilling. And we’re not doing it on our own; we’re also seeking collaboration with our international partners,” Mr. Ferrer said.

He said that the PCCI is working with various overseas partners on upskilling and training in preparation for the entry of advanced manufacturing and services projects. — Justine Irish D. Tabile