Striking a Balance: The Philippines’ Path to Sustainable Critical Minerals Development – by Rocco Cartusciello (The Diplomat – June 21, 2024)

Manila is under pressure to begin exploiting its rich mineral deposits, but it needs to carefully consider the likely social and environmental costs.

The demand for critical minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and rare earth elements, has surged in recent years due to their role as essential components for modern technologies and green energy solutions. Under the Paris Agreement, meeting the world’s climate stabilization goal requires quadrupling mineral requirements for renewable energy technologies by 2040.

The Philippines, with largely untapped reserves of copper, gold, nickel, zinc, and silver, stands to economically benefit from this global surge in demand, necessitating greater investment in its mining sector. Currently, only 5 percent of these reserves have been explored, and just 3 percent are covered by mining contracts.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration has sought and achieved greater investment from countries like the United States and Japan to diversify the critical minerals supply chain away from China. The Philippines was China’s largest supplier of nickel ore in the first quarter of 2023 alone, exporting 3.48 million tons.

However, geopolitical shifts and contestations regarding territorial claims over the South China Sea has led the current Philippine government to seek greater alignment with the United States, with the goal of expanding further into the critical minerals market under the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.

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