PH, US ink deals on energy, health, Internet satellites, climate tech

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

November 16, 2023, 12:54 pm

MANILA – The Philippines and the United States (US) on Thursday (Manila time) signed at least five agreements on clean energy, health care, pharmaceutical production, Internet connectivity, and climate technology.

The agreements were signed on the sidelines of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s participation in the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco, California.

“It is a good experience always to come and officiate, or shall we say, witness the agreements that we have come with our partners, some government-to-government and some on the private sector,” Marcos said after the signing of deals at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.

“They all hold a great potential for the Philippines to reshape its landscape of clean energy, health care, pharmaceutical manufacturing, Internet and satellite technology, and climate technology.”

Clean energy

The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and the Ultra Safe Nuclear Cooperation (USNC) signed a cooperation agreement to undertake a Pre-Feasibility Study on Micro-Modular Reactors (MMRs) to explore clean and sustainable energy options in the country.

Under the agreement, a feasibility study will be conducted for the potential deployment of MMRs in Meralco sites aimed at enforcing the sustainable energy agenda and providing affordable and dependable access to power, particularly to the underserved and off-grid areas, for economic empowerment.

The study would enable Meralco to obtain an estimate of the environmental and social impact, capital expenditure, and operational costs, among others, related to the siting, construction, and operation of one or more MMR energy systems in the Philippines.

The partnership between Meralco and USNC is a “significant step” towards exploring clean and sustainable energy options for the Philippines, Marcos said, adding that it is aligned with the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change.

First cancer hospital

Ayala Group’s AC Health also signed a cooperation agreement with US-based Varian Medical Systems to improve access to quality cancer care in the Philippines by sharing their expertise in establishing and running the Philippines’ first dedicated specialty oncology hospital.

The partnership will enable AC Health to establish the Healthway Cancer Care Hospital in the Philippines, which will serve as a network of oncology clinics throughout Metro Manila aimed at providing cancer patients access to comprehensive cancer care using Varian’s state-of-the-art and multi-modality cancer care technologies.

Among the signatories were Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala of the Ayala Corp., AC Health chief executive officer (CEO) and president Paolo Borromeo, Varian Philippines president and managing director Heinz-Michael Horst Schmermer, and Varian’s Advanced Oncology Solutions vice president Chuck Lindley.

Marcos said the collaboration between AC Health and Varian Medical Systems is a vital stride in the fight against cancer and reflects the Philippines' growing potential as a “leading health care destination in Asia.”

In 2023, cancer is the third leading cause of death in the Philippines, with about 141,021 new cancer cases and 86,337 cancer deaths every year.

To boost cancer control efforts and reduce the burden of the disease, the Philippines enacted Republic Act 11215, or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, in February 2019. As of this month, the Department of Health is set to establish 16 Cancer Care Specialty Centers nationwide.

Local production of medicines

Meanwhile, the Philippine company Lloyd Laboratories and US firm DifGen Pharmaceutic signed a joint venture agreement worth USD20 million to boost the local production of medicines in the Philippines.

The joint venture will cover mutual interest in collaborating on the filing of an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) and the marketing of jointly developed pharmaceutical products within the US.

An investment of up to USD20 million will be undertaken by Lloyd Laboratories for the establishment and operation of the first US Food and Drug Administration’s approved manufacturing facility in the Philippines, contributing to the advancement of the country’s position as a key player in the global pharmaceutical industry.

The signatories for Lloyd Laboratories were Dr. Lloyd Balajada, Christopher Bamba, and lawyer Rafael Calinisan, while lawyer Oliver Baclay and Ramandeep Singh Jaj signed for DifGen Pharmaceuticals.

Marcos said the joint venture between Lloyd Laboratories and DifGen Pharmaceuticals is vital in expanding the country’s local production and promoting a competitive and robust local pharmaceutical industry.

Internet satellites

An agreement between the Philippines’ satellite service provider Orbits and California-based communications satellites operator Astranis for the deployment of the first two Internet satellites to improve connectivity in remote areas in the Philippines was also signed.

The agreement is expected to generate USD400 million worth of investment over the next eight years through the MicroGEO satellites, which will provide Internet service in the unserved and underserved areas of the Philippines, covering up to 10 million users and 30,000 villages.

It is also projected to create more than 10,000 jobs for direct and indirect employees and partners.

During the event, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez announced the official name of the first satellite as “Agila” to foster the spirit of technological advancements and strengthen international partnerships.

The selection of the name Agila, he said, holds deep significance, embodying the project’s unwavering commitment to connecting and empowering the Filipino nation through the expansion of access to the digital world.

Marcos said the partnership between Astranis and Orbit would help bridge the digital divide and foster digital transformation in the Philippines.

Advanced weather forecasting

Leading artificial intelligence (AI) meteorology company Atmo, Inc. also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for the establishment of a high-resolution weather forecasting system for the Philippines using AI technology.

The MOA was signed by DOST Undersecretary Maridon Sahagun and Atmo founder and CEO Alexander Levy.

It will be Asia’s largest AI-driven weather forecasting program, which is expected to play a pivotal role in bolstering the Philippines’ resilience.

The MOA on weather forecasting will benefit the Philippines, considering that it is one of the countries most affected by typhoons.

Marcos welcomed the signing of the agreement, saying it would help make the country climate-resilient.

“The Philippines is one of the countries most affected by typhoons, with an annual average of 20 typhoons that bring heavy flooding and cause billions of pesos in damage to infrastructure, to agriculture, and to people’s lives. Atmo and the Department of Science and Technology’s partnership on an AI-powered weather forecasting system will help the Philippines build its climate resilience,” he said.

Based on records, the Philippines experienced 17 typhoons from July 2022 to May 2023. (PNA)