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Nickel ore export ban ruled out; PHL seeking to draw processors

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the government has no plan to ban the export of nickel ore but is focused on attracting mineral processing investment.   

“There is no proposal to ban the export of nickel ore. We will encourage the processing of nickel ore in the Philippines. We always go by market mechanisms,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual told reporters at a virtual briefing late Wednesday.

Mr. Pascual was responding to a query on a critical minerals agreement (CMA) with the US. Recently, Mr. Pascual urged the US to consider such a deal with the Philippines akin to the US-Japan CMA signed on March 28.

CMAs are designed to diversify supply chains for critical minerals, by which means the Philippines hopes to develop its electric vehicle (EV) battery industry, among others.

In January, Mr. Pascual said the DTI launched an industrial policy study to investigate options like an export tax on nickel exports or an outright export ban.

“The whole world is moving towards EVs and the supply of critical green metals like nickel because they are used to produce batteries (and) will become very much in demand. The big profit is in the finished product, not in the raw minerals,” Mr. Pascual said.

“We want the further processing of these raw minerals so that we can produce out of these minerals, the metals like nickel that are essential ingredients or components of batteries, which are in turn needed for EVs,” he added.

According to Mr. Pascual, the Philippines has received interest from miners in the US, Europe, China, and Japan for potential investments in nickel ore processing.

“The government doesn’t have control over mineral ores. At the end of the day, it will be the decision of private companies that produce the mineral ores to decide who they will partner with. We can only provide the enabling environment so that they can do it,” Mr. Pascual said.

“We are pursuing discussions with foreign partners that will provide the technology for further processing of nickel ores,” he added.

Separately, Mr. Pascual said the proposed inclusion of electric motorcycles in the list of EVs covered by the zero import tariff rules could be reviewed by February, one year after the Executive Order (EO) No. 12 was issued.

EO 12 was released in January and implemented 30 days later. It contains a mechanism for reviewing tariffs after a year.

“We have provision in the EO, which said that the EVs that are not included (in the zero tariff rules) like two-wheeled vehicles such as motorcycles, (will be subject to review),” Mr. Pascual said.

EO 12 reduced tariffs on certain EVs to zero for five years. These include cars, buses, vans, trucks, kick scooters, self-balancing cycles, bicycles, and pocket motorcycles with auxiliary motors not exceeding 250 watts and with a maximum speed of 25 kilometers per hour. Those excluded from the EO, such as electric motorcycles, will be charged a 30% tariff.  

Private sector groups such as Stratbase ADR Institute have pressed for the inclusion of e-motorcycles in the zero-tariff coverage, saying that such a move would boost EV adoption overall. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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