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Indonesia may export more coal, fertilizer to Philippines — Marcos

Indonesian President Joko Widodo walks with Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, Indonesia, Sept. 5. — ANTARA FOTO/SIGID KURNIAWAN/VIA REUTERS

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday said he discussed the possibility of securing coal and fertilizer supply from Indonesia during his meeting with President Joko Widodo.

Mr. Marcos, who ended his state visit to Indonesia on Tuesday, said he “brought up” agriculture with Mr. Widodo because that’s “a very important subject that needs to be discussed.”

“We talked about the possibility of them supplying us with fertilizer, with urea from Indonesia,” he told reporters in Jakarta, based on a transcript provided by Malacañang.

As a net importer of fertilizer, the Philippines is vulnerable to global supply disruptions and price fluctuations.

Fertilizer prices have sharply increased in recent months as supply was affected by the Russia-Ukraine war. Russia is the world’s biggest supplier of fertilizer.

The Philippines’ primary sources of fertilizer imports from 2018 to 2021 are China (40.66%), Indonesia (16.70%), and Malaysia (12.20%), according to data from the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).

In July, Mr. Marcos said he would reach out to Indonesia, China, Russia, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates to secure cheaper fertilizer through government-to-government deals.

During his state visit, Mr. Marcos said he also asked Indonesia for assistance in strengthening the local fisheries sector.

“I also asked for help on fisheries because I am obsessed with the fact that the Philippines imports galunggong. I can’t accept it,” he said. “So I asked for help because their fisheries sector is stable.”

Mr. Marcos, 64, has promised to boost local food production and limit imports as much as possible. But experts said this would be challenged by elevated inflation and rising costs of farm inputs.

COAL IMPORTSMr. Marcos, who has vowed to pursue a shift to renewable energy, said the country is poised to secure more coal exports from Indonesia.

“There was a time a few weeks back where they stopped exporting coal. We asked them and they included us in the list. They would export coal to us,” he said.

Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter of coal, has implemented coal export bans to ensure there is enough domestic supply.

Mr. Marcos said he and Mr. Widodo also talked about the green energy shift, noting that coal is not seen as environmentally friendly.

He noted the state visit to Indonesia was “more productive than we had expected.”

“I think the most extensive subject matter was in fact, PPP (public-private partnership). Because we are here to encourage PPPs with the Philippine government,” Mr. Marcos said, adding that they also sought to encourage joint ventures between Philippine and Indonesian companies.

Mr. Marcos also said he is considering building state-run malls in the Philippines to promote small enterprises and local products. This, after Mr. Widodo gave him a tour in a mall run by the Indonesian government.

INVESTMENTSMeanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) wooed Indonesian companies to invest in the Philippines.

“The Philippines is open for business. Recent policy reforms, particularly on foreign investment ownership and other restrictions as well as on incentives, have made the Philippines more conducive for foreign businesses, including those from Indonesia,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said during a roundtable meeting with Indonesian executives in Jakarta on Sept. 5.

He touted the passage of economic reforms such as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law, which offers incentives to investors.

Mr. Pascual said the Philippines is seeking partnerships and investments in the industrial, manufacturing, and transport cluster; the technology, media, and telecommunication cluster; and the health and life sciences cluster.   

“We continue to invest in physical and cyber infrastructure, power generation and transmission, and logistics, as well as in modern and efficient air, land, and sea transport facilities. To build more of these support and service facilities, we welcome the participation of the private sector, both local and foreign,” he added.

Mr. Pascual said Indonesia is one of the top 10 sources of net foreign direct investments in the Philippines as of August this year. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Revin Mikhail D. Ochave

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