A CIVIL NUCLEAR cooperation agreement between the United States and the Philippines, which will pave the way for US companies to export nuclear technology and material to the country, entered into force on July 2.

“The Agreement will enhance our cooperation on clean energy and energy security and strengthen our long-term bilateral diplomatic and economic relationships,” the US State department said in a statement.

Washington and Manila signed the Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, also known as the “123 Agreement,” in November last year. The deal provides the legal framework for the export of nuclear materials, equipment and components from the US to the Philippines.

As many as 40 US companies would be interested in contributing to the development of the nuclear energy industry in the Philippines, Paul Taylor, commercial counselor at the US Embassy in the Philippines, said on Tuesday.

“Over the last couple of years, the work in the civil nuclear space energy sector has been focused on the regulatory framework,” Mr. Taylor said at a media seminar in Iloilo City.

“Now that the 123 Agreement has gone into force… We are kind of beginning to shift gears and really focus much more on commercial promotions that help American companies connect with their potential partners here in the Philippines,” he added.

Mr. Taylor said that the US government limits the ability of American companies to export civil nuclear technology without a 123 Agreement in place.

To ramp up commercial activities, he said that the US Embassy has created an industry-led working group composed of US companies that are looking to bring their technologies to the Philippines.

Asked about how many American companies are interested in investing in the Philippines, he said: “So, we have 14 currently, and our goal is to hit 40. So, I think somewhere between 14 and 40 will be your answer. ”

Mr. Taylor said the industry-led group will have its first meeting on July 31, which will be attended by representatives from the Department of Energy (DoE).

He said the US Commercial Service is also working with the DoE to organize a supplier forum in the second week of November.

“We are expecting US companies to attend in person and have the opportunity to discuss partnerships with the Philippine DoE and really begin to take very concrete steps to building the supply chain that will be needed for civil nuclear energy development projects here in the Philippines,” he added.

Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said in a Viber message that the 123 Agreement underscores the government’s commitment to clean and sustainable energy, which is vital in achieving the country’s climate and economic goals.

“Nuclear energy will enhance our energy security and support economic growth. The (Department of Trade and Industry) sees this agreement as a key opportunity to attract investments in clean energy, bolstering our position as a prime investment destination,” Mr. Pascual said on Tuesday.

“DTI is dedicated to promoting sustainable industrialization and inclusive growth, and we are optimistic about the positive impacts this collaboration will bring to our nation’s energy resilience and sustainability,” he added.

During President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s visit to Washington, D.C. in May last year, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. and NuScale Power Corp. expressed interest in bringing nuclear energy facilities to the Philippines.

Mr. Taylor said that NuScale is a subsidiary of a big engineering company called Fluor Corp., which is known for its small modular reactor technology.

“They have been very active in approaching power generation developers here in the Philippines and, in some cases, signing at least nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), if not specific memoranda of understanding (MoUs), to identify the path forward for that partnership,” he said.

For Ultra Safe, he said that the company was part of the US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines earlier this year, led by US Department of Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo.

“There are 22 companies that came along with Secretary Raimondo, and Ultra Safe was one of those companies. They sent their chief executive officer so that he would have an opportunity to engage directly with their potential partners here,” he said.

“So, similar to Fluor, they are in the process of signing either NDAs or MoUs with some of the power generation partners here in the Philippines,” he added.

Mr. Marcos has said his government sees nuclear energy becoming part of the country’s energy mix by 2032. — Justine Irish D. Tabile