By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

COOPERATION. Papua New Guinea (PNG) Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko (left) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo shake hands after a press conference at the Makati Diamond Residences on Thursday (April 4, 2024). Manalo said the Philippines and PNG are eyeing possible cooperation on critical minerals and fisheries sectors. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The Philippines and Papua New Guinea (PNG) are eyeing possible cooperation on critical minerals and fisheries sectors, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Thursday.

After his bilateral meeting with PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko, Manalo said the Philippines is eager to explore opportunities and “new forms” of partnership with the Pacific nation.

“On the economic front, we discussed greater cooperation on agriculture and fisheries, also in terms of downstream processing, (and) in critical minerals, such as copper or gold,” he said during a press conference at the Makati Diamond Residences.

Both the Philippines and PNG have vast amounts of gold, copper, and nickel deposits –
critical minerals vital to producing clean energy technologies.

The Philippines has been increasing interactions with foreign governments and stepping up support for local mining industries to position itself as a key player in the global value chains.

“The two ministers have identified this (critical minerals) as a potential priority sector during their meeting earlier and discussions are in an exploratory stage,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

Manalo said Manila and Port Moresby are also working to renew and enhance an existing memorandum of understanding on fisheries.

“I can only see a very broad and expansive relationship developing from our discussions today. And I think the focus will be a lot in the areas of food security, agriculture, and also other ways of promoting food resilience,” he said.

‘Defense, security’

On top of these, the ministers saw the need to enhance cooperation on defense and security matters, but Manalo said this would still have to be discussed in more detail.

He said he “updated” Tkatchenko on the challenges faced by Manila in the South China Sea, where several coastal states have overlapping territorial claims.

“We are concerned with the situation in the West Philippine Sea,” Manalo said. “We do have a very common commitment on the importance of international law, adherence to international maritime law. And we both felt that it’s only through this adherence to international law, on which nations can cooperate fruitfully and peacefully.”

Tkatchenko is also in the Philippines for the two states’ inaugural policy consultations, which aim to facilitate enhanced communication and coordination on bilateral, regional, and international issues of mutual interest.

Currently, Papua New Guinea hosts more than 35,000 Filipinos, mostly working as managers and supervisors, contributing to both the Philippine and Papua New Guinean economies and societies.

In 1975, the Philippines was among the first countries to establish formal diplomatic ties with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea after it was declared and recognized as a sovereign nation on Sept. 16, 1975. (PNA)