MISLEADING: Bataan Nuclear Power Plant 'wasted by Cory Aquino'
Claim: Former president Corazon Aquino mothballed the billion-dollar Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) project to “demonize” her predecessor, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Facebook Claim Check, the social media’s tool for identifying suspected dubious content shared across the platform, flagged a 9-minute video posted by Facebook page Bagong Lipunan titled “$2.3 billion project wasted by Cory Aquino to demonize Marcos.” It was dated March 24, 2019.
As of writing, the video had been viewed almost a million times on Facebook and had over 34,000 shares, 6,300 reactions, and 777 comments.
The video highlighted how the Cory Aquino administration wasted the opportunities of having the first nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia. It included an audio recording attributed to Marcos, who was supposedly quoted saying that Aquino refused to continue the power plant project as an act of revenge.
“Ayaw niyang tanggapin ang aking mungkahi at maaalala daw ng taumbayan si Marcos hanggang nandiyan ang Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Anong klaseng pag-iisip ‘yan? Iyan ay paghihiganti. Huwag na idamay ang samabayanang Pilipino. Makikita 'nyo 20 years from now bagsak na ang Pilipinas."
(She refused to accept my suggestion because the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant would remind the people of Marcos. What kind of mindset is that? That is vengeance. Leave the Filipino out of it. You’ll see, 20 years from now, the Philippines would collapsed.)
The claim has been rehashed several times. Rappler spotted the same content posted on Facebook page Fighters Against Biased Media and Facebook group BONGBONG MARCOS LOYALIST FACEBOOK WARRIORS.
Website politicalfeeds.info also carried the same content, which was shared by groups SENATOR IMEE MARCOS, DDS/ DIEHARD DUTERTE SUPPORTERS, and ALAN PETER CAYETANO SUPPORTERS INTERNATIONAL, as well as pages Pinoy Republic and Pres. Duterte Community.
The facts: Aquino decided not to push through with the BNPP in 1986 due to safety concerns following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, as well as corruption and fraud issues that plagued the project. There is also no proof that the alleged audio recording of Marcos is genuine.
In 2018, Vera Files already did a fact check on the supposed audio recording of Marcos included in the video. The news organization said no legitimate media outfit ever reported about the issue and/or officially attributed the quote to the late dictator.
When the Aquino government decided not to open the BNPP in 1986, among the safety measures cited was the location of the plant as it is situated close to an earthquake fault line. It is also 7.5 kilometers away from Mount Natib, which the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) considers as a "potentially active volcano." (READ: DOE: Nat'l consensus needed to reopen Bataan Nuclear Power Plant)
While the details about the BNPP project laid out in the video are factual, it left out some key information. For one, the video mentioned that the plant passed the inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an organization that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in 1985. But a Fortune article in 1986 detailed how that inspection report was not conducted by construction experts.
Safety concerns had been raised even before the construction of the plant was completed, too. In 1980, US nuclear engineer Robert Pollard of the now-defunct US Atomic Energy Commission visited the Philippines to inspect the BNPP. He reported that the plant would not be safe, reliable, and inexpensive.
Moreover, the video didn’t mention the corruption and fraud issues that hounded the project. (READ: BNPP: Not about nuclear; it’s about trust and accountability)
In 2012, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered Herminio Disini, a known Marcos ally, to return the $50 million he received as commission from Westinghouse Electric Company, the nuclear reactor supplier of the BNPP project as the amount was ill-gotten wealth. (READ: Court orders Marcos crony to return $50-M)
The Sandiganbayan said in its 52-page court decision: "The evidence presented by the Republic proves that Disini used his influence and close relationship with President Marcos to obtain and amass large amounts of money, which he subsequently stored in various accounts, among which were those in Swiss accounts.”
Data from the Bureau of Treasury shows that the Philippine government only completed settling its BNPP debt in 2007. – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com
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