EU, US tech tie-ups eyed for lab-sized wafer fab


THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that it is looking for international technical partners for its plan to build a lab-sized wafer fabrication hub to upgrade the Philippines’ capacity for prototyping chips.

On the sidelines of the Induction Ceremonies and Oath-taking of the Council of Engineering Consultants of the Philippines (CECOPHIL), Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said that the department has started talking to potential partners.

“We are already talking to some that we are inviting. Of course, they are those that have experience in wafer fabrication,” Mr. Pascual told reporters. “Some are from Europe, some are from the US.”

“We are yet to (come up with firm plans). Our plant visits may help in organizing our thoughts on how to go about it,” he said.

According to Mr. Pascual, the DTI has visited a plant in Leuven, Belgium after meeting with the European Commission (EC) early this week to get a deeper understanding on how wafer fabrication plants work.

“It is better to see for myself how they do it,” he said.

On Monday, Mr. Pascual and EC Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis made a joint announcement that the Philippines and the European Union (EU) will be resuming negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA).

Mr. Pascual said talks have started at lower levels before Undersecretary of International Trade Allan B. Gepty meets with EU officials by May.

“The formal or the face-to-face negotiation will start early in the second half of the year or third quarter because there is a lot of preparatory work to be done,” he said.

“But the work has started… we already did a scoping study from September to December to see if the ambitions of the two sides match because if not, we would not have continued to negotiate,” he added.

During his keynote speech at the event, Mr. Pascual said that FTAs include market access for services, including professional services.

“By committing market access, this means that a trading partner country guarantees the entry of these service providers and professionals,” he said.

This, he said, may also be a part of the business proposals for the EU-Philippine FTA to allow Filipino professionals to set up firms in the host country and be paid at the host country’s salary scale.

He said that at present, many foreign firms operate in the Philippines hiring Filipinos at domestic rates while charging based on their international rates which creates disparity.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pascual also called for CECOPHIL’s participation in the ongoing public consultations of DTI’s Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB).

He said that the PCAB is conducting consultations on the needed revisions to the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) governing contractor licensing.

“The Supreme Court made a decision (in 2020) that foreign firms could be licensed in the Philippines. It affirmed this decision in 2022 and so that would require amendments to the IRR,” he said.

“This is not in effect yet because there is a need to amend the IRR first. What we want is to update the IRR to be able to implement the SC’s decision,” he added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile