PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

THE PHILIPPINES is counting on the world’s shift to green technology and the pandemic-induced demand for data centers to boost investments in its mining industry, a top official said.

The end of a ban on new mining permits also positions the sector to attract funds for a shift toward processing instead of simply exporting ores, said Trade Undersecretary Perry Rodolfo, who also heads the Board of Investments (BoI). The BoI separately aims to win about P1 trillion ($20 billion) in investment commitments from home and abroad this year, up by 50% from 2021.

“The Philippines is blessed when it comes to very critical minerals that are needed by everyone as we shift towards a more digitalized and greener world,” Mr. Rodolfo said in an interview on Friday, commenting on the demand for nickel, copper and cobalt. “The next key thing is to really make sure that they are processed here and we add value prior to exporting them.”

The Southeast Asian nation is the world’s second-biggest producer of nickel. The aim is to locally process ore into “precursors” for a wide array of products, including batteries used to power data centers and electric vehicles.

The plan fits well with the government’s move to promote investments in hyperscaler data centers that use big batteries. Economic managers recently ordered that the 40% foreign equity restrictions on solar, wind and tidal renewable energy projects be removed.

Companies planning to put up data centers “have to use renewable energy. Otherwise, they will just be competing with other sectors in the Philippines for power,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, whose six-year term ends on June 30, last week signed the 2022 strategic investment priority plan which lists activities like environment and climate-change related projects eligible for tax incentives.

Mr. Rodolfo is optimistic that investors will continue coming in when the new administration of President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. takes power. “Each administration builds on the reform efforts of the past administration,” he said. — Bloomberg