Duterte studies proposals to tap nuclear energy

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is reviewing proposals to add nuclear energy to the Philippines' energy sources, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday, March 3.

Panelo said this was among the topics taken up at the Cabinet meeting held on Monday night, March 2, and that Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi sought the President's approval of a proposed executive order (EO) seeking the inclusion of nuclear power in the country's energy mix.

The Palace spokesman said the Office of the Executive Secretary submitted the proposed EO to Duterte on February 20, 2020, but it has yet to be approved.

 

Panelo said Cusi claimed new energy sources were needed as the "Philippines is expected to have a rapid growth in electricity demand, in which a 24/7 power is essential and necessary."

Asked if proposals to tap nuclear energy were related to a deal signed by the Philippines and Russia in October 2019, Panelo said he was not familiar with such details.

Several business deals – including exploring the prospects of building nuclear power plants in the Philippines – were earlier signed on the sidelines of an October 2019 Philippines-Russia Business Forum in Moscow keynoted by Duterte.

After the signing of the deal, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian raised concerns over the safety of nuclear energy in the country. He said plans should be accompanied by an in-depth study and the necessary laws that would address nuclear safety, including measures to deal with nuclear waste.

Gatchalian cited the case of the Marcos-era defunct Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which was the Philippine government's first attempt to venture into nuclear power. The plant was never used due to safety concerns following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia in 1986.

In 1980, US nuclear engineer Robert Pollard of the now-defunct US Atomic Energy Commission also visited the Philippines to inspect the BNPP. Among his findings were that the plant would not be safe, reliable, and inexpensive– Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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