THE Philippines has proposed to Japan and the US ministers its accession to the US-Japan Critical Minerals Agreement.

“Critical minerals were one of the topics we covered in our trilateral ministerial meeting. We emphasized the fact that we are a major producer of critical minerals,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual told reporters at a recent briefing.

He said that China, the destination of 90% of Philippine nickel ore exports, has de facto control on the nickel market after Indonesia banned the export of nickel ore.

“China now has a major hold on the nickel market, particularly the downstream products coming out of nickel, like battery precursors and batteries, and from a strategic standpoint, it would affect the supply needed by coun-tries like Japan and eventually the US,” he added.

The approach was made at the Japan-US-Philippines Trilateral Economic Ministers Meeting on April 11.

“To tie things more tightly among the three countries that are working together to ensure resiliency of supply, we need to be part of that agreement,” Mr. Pascual said.

“I told them during our meeting that if it’s difficult to have a one-on-one or bilateral critical minerals agreement between the Philippines and the US, what we can do is just accede to what is in place now, which is the Japanese and American Critical Minerals Agreement,” he added.

If realized, the Philippines will no longer need to enter into a separate bilateral critical minerals agreement with the US, Mr. Pascual said.

“They will have to mull it over, so we have not reached any common agreement yet,” he said.

“The Japanese are open to it. And well, since US Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, of course, doesn’t have a full say on this, she’ll take it up within the US government,” he added.

Joining will give the US priority access to Philippine critical minerals and possibly attract US investments in Philippine mineral processing operations.

Mr. Pascual noted that the US is currently trying to move companies operating in China out of that country.

“It is hard to convince US companies to invest here if we don’t have that kind of agreement. The way I see it, American investors are still waiting for a certain signal that will say that the Philippines is a prime investment destina-tion,” he said.

The US and Japan signed their critical minerals agreement on March 28, 2023, in order to diversify critical minerals supply chains in support of developing electric vehicle battery technology. — Justine Irish D. Tabile