February 23, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Commercial Service, has donated P280 million in technical assistance program to develop the country’s critical minerals sector.

The program is in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Public Administration Foundation (UPPAF), which is the implementing partner for the program under the USAID’s Reform Support Program for National Development (Respond) Project.

The comprehensive program will support the current administration’s goal to become a major global value chain player in the clean energy sector by maximizing the country’s mineral potential and increasing value addition through minerals processing. 

It includes support for streamlining permitting processes, advancing policy reforms, improving minimum governance standards, and helping facilitate investments in minerals processing and other downstream industries. 

USAID Philippines Deputy Mission Director Rebekah Eubanks said the program will enjoin the government agencies and private firms to map a way forward on how to advance the minezrals sector of the country, not only on extraction but on processing as well.

On Nov. 16, a memorandum of understanding was signed for the program called “Partnership for Sustainable Development and Investment in Mineral Extraction and Processing” at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Baguio City between the USAID, UPPAF President Maria Fe Mendoza, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzagga, Anti-Red Tape Authority Director General Ernesto Perez, DILG-Cordillera Asst. Director Ruperto Maribbay, Jr., Finance USec. Karlo Fermin Adriano, Department of Trade and Industry, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, and the Philippine Nickel Industry Association.  

Eubanks said a technical working group will be created composed by the different signatory agencies, including the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

“We need the voice of the indigenous peoples who live in these communities as part of this as well,” Eubanks said.

She assured there will be a series of consultations conducted to ensure that all sectors will be covered by the program. She said it is the program’s aim to provide jobs within the community and to drive up the economy of the Philippines.

USAID’s Respond Project Chief Party Enrico Basilio said they aim to come up with a concrete study in six months’ time, which will be a product of consultations of all the stakeholders of the minerals sector.

The program was an offshoot of the meeting of U.S. President Joseph Biden and President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in Washington last May where the two leaders announced that the U.S. government, through USAID, will invest an additional $5M or P280M to support increased production of processed minerals.

This will also expand downstream mineral industries in the Philippines, such as the production of electronic vehicle components and information and communication technologies equipment, while improving governance standards in the mining industry.