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Report of WWII Platinum Find in Philippines Affects Foreign Markets

February 8, 1995

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Reports of the discovery of a World War II cache of platinum in the Philippines caused the metal’s price to drop Wednesday in Hong Kong and New York.

A two-ton block of metal was seized Sunday from a villager in Katayaman in Lallo, Cagayan, 250 miles northeast of Manila. Government officials said a treasure hunter found the block in May 1993 in 70 feet of water off the Cagayan coast and it was taken to the village for safekeeping.

Government scientists were examining the block Wednesday, not only to determine whether it is platinum, a metal more precious than gold. They also want to know whether it is part of the legendary treasure of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita.

Yamashita, commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines at the end of the war, was hung as a war criminal in 1946. Legend has it that platinum looted from Southeast Asia after Japanese forces invaded was buried in 170 locations throughout the Philippines.

But many historians doubt Yamashita had time to accumulate and hide such a fortune. He was assigned to the Philippines only 10 days before U.S. troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to the country.

In Tokyo, a Japanese metals trader dismissed the report.

``It’s a fake story. There have been tens of stories like this,″ said Makoto Tonoki, general manager of the bullion department of Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K.

Platinum is not traded in the Philippines, and Tonoki said Japan could not have collected that much platinum during World War II.

Nevertheless, the report partly caused platinum prices in Hong Kong and New York to slide.

Platinum has fallen by $5 an ounce over the past two sessions in New York, though low-volume trading has exaggerated its slide. In Hong Kong Wednesday, platinum was quoted at $410.25 an ounce, down 75 cents from its New York close.

New York dealers estimate two tons of platinum would fetch around $26 million on international markets.

Tonoki said that after its invasion of Manchuria, Japan had access to platinum, which was used mainly as a catalyst to produce nitric acid to make fertilizer and gunpowder.

He said that from 1935 to 1937, the annual production of platinum worldwide was only 10 tons. Of that amount, Japan imported 1,540 pounds in 1935, 1,760 pounds in 1936, and 3,520 pounds in 1937.

In 1940, the Japanese government banned imports of platinum, maintaining the ban until 1952.

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