Manila: The Philippines could finally join the global electric vehicle (EV) production and supply chain in a more direct way, boosting investments and higher-quality jobs.
Vietnam’s VinGroup revealed plans on Wednesday to prioritise the Philippines as a “key market” for VinFast, its automotive arm.
VinFast aims to launch EV dealerships in April in the Philippines. Further collaborations, especially in battery production, could help ramp up processing of battery minerals within the country, instead of exporting them.
During President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s two-day visit to Vietnam (January 29 to 30), he met Vingroup executives led by Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong, known as the Elon Musk of Vietnam, and Nguyen Viet Quang, Vice chairman and CEO of the company.
The VinFast executives announced they are registering in the Philippines for “EV marketing, energy storage, and nickel processing partnerships.” VinFast’s entry aligns with the Philippines' goal of processing raw ores locally for EV battery production, said Marcos Jr.
The Philippines, one of the world’s top nickel producers, currently exports most of its nickel production in the form of mixed sulfide to other countries – notably Japan – where it undergoes further purification and processing.
At present, Philippine-based Nickel Asia Corp. uses High-Pressure Acid Leach (HPAL) mineral extraction technology with Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd. in Palawan (Rio Tuba and Taganito) to produce mixed sulfides, which are then exported for further processing.
The Taganito HPAL’s plant in Palawan has an annual production of 30,000 metric tonnes of nickel and 2,640 metric tonnes of cobalt – in the form of Ni-Co mixed sulfide exported to Nihama Nickel Refinery in Japan's Ehime Prefecture.
Sumitomo Metal is a key supplier of nickel-based cathode materials to Panasonic, which accounts for 10 per cent of global battery production and is a major producer of lithium-ion batteries used in Tesla vehicles.
Vines Energy Solutions (ES), which became a VinFast subsidiary in 2023, specialises in research and development (R&D) and the production of lithium-ion batteries for mobility and energy storage applications.
Meanwhile, known nickel ore reserves can be found in Camarines Norte, Tawi-Tawi, Quezon Province, Isabela, and Romblon, among others.
President Marcos Jr, citing potentials for battery development and manufacturing partnerships, also assured an “open market” for electric vehicles in his country.
The Filipino leader also emphasised areas of collaboration in achieving national modernisation goals, including the Public Utility Vehicle Modernisation Programme (PUVMP).
The discussions also covered extensions of public transportation projects and educational initiatives in AI and medicine, showcasing a strategic partnership between the Philippines and VinGroup.
The country produced about 360,000 metric tonnes of contained nickel in 2022, equivalent to 11 per cent of the global production, estimates S&P Global.
In October 2023, the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) unveiled a plan to establish dedicated zones for electric vehicle manufacturing.
The change in strategy – processing raw ores domestically, instead of exporting them – would help boost new-energy battery developmenta and manufacturing in the country – further improving value creation within the country.
The Philippines “eagerly anticipates collaborating with Vingroup on electric vehicle production and local mineral processing,” Marcos Jr. revealed on Monday in a social media post.
“We are in the middle of our modernisation programme essentially meaning we are going to replace all our conveyances, buses and we have a particular type of transport jeepneys,” Marcos stated.