MANILA, Philippines – Energy officials were grilled by congressmen on Tuesday, August 13, after it was revealed that the Executive removed the annual P45-million allocation for the maintenance of the country’s sole nuclear power plant from the proposed budget for 2014.
Pangasinan 5th district Rep Kimi Cojuangco announced that she would defer the budget of the Department of Energy (DOE) unless theline item originally allocated for the maintenance of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is included in the budget again.
To escape the heat during the 6-hour deliberation on the DOE’s proposed budget, Secretary Carlos Petilla instead suggested that the local community in Bataan conduct and provide DOE with a study on the BNPP so department could determine what to do.
Bataan 1st district Rep Herminia Roman shot back: “We are in the dark. I think you have to make the study first and then you present it to my community and then the community will decide as to whether to support your findings or not.”
A representative from the Department of Budget and Management said the DOE had been tasked to come up with a position paper on the BNPP budget. Before that, “it is the decision of the DBM board not to provide for the preservation of the BNPP.”
Since its creation in 1984, the BNPP has been inoperable. The administration of President Corazon Aquino decided to put off the plant’s operation in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia.
In the years succeeding the Aquino administration, the government has consistently allocated P45 million a year under the National Power Corporation (Napocor) budget for the plant’s maintenance.
In the proposed 2014 budget, the said line item has disappeared.
“DBM did not include it in the proposed budget submitted. That is also our concern because we need money to pay for our people there,” Napocor secretary Gladys Cruz- Sta. Rita claimed.
The building cost of the nuclear plant Back in 1984 reached $2.3 billion. According to Cojuangco, building the same infrastructure today would cost $6 billion.
Earlier in 2013, Napocor proposed a $1-billion rehabilitation plan for the mothballed BNPP project. It has been argued that operating on nuclear power energy could contribute to decrease of electricity cost and address the problem of rotating brownouts in the country.
In the proposed 2014 budget, the DOE is expecting to receive P3.259 exclusive of the allocation for special purpose funds. – Rappler.com