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FACT CHECK: Deuterium won’t solve PH debt in a year


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FACT CHECK: Deuterium won’t solve PH debt in a year
Claims of the Philippines having the largest deuterium deposits in the world have been debunked as early as the 1980s

Claim: The Philippines has the largest deuterium deposits in the world, and mining the deuterium-rich Philippine Deep will pay off the country’s debts in a year.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a YouTube video which has gained 61,704 views and 1,500 likes as of writing. It was posted on August 16 by a channel with 21,200 subscribers.

The video’s narrator states: “Ang potensyal naman nito [deuterium] sa ekonomiya ay humigit kumulang labindalawang milyong bariles bawat araw, na may kapasidad na halaga na $7 kada bariles na maaring umabot sa $84 million sa isang araw o $30.66 billion sa loob ng isang taon, sapat upang matustusan ang pambayad para sa lumulobong utang ng gobyerno sa loob lamang ng isang taon.

(The economic contribution of deuterum is 12 million barrels per day, which is worth $7 per barrel or $84 million a day, amounting to $30.66 billion in a year – enough to pay off the country’s ballooning debts in just one year.)

The facts: Rappler and other fact-checking bodies have repeatedly debunked claims of the Philippines being rich in the hydrogen isotope deuterium, which is used as fuel in nuclear fusion reactions.

Furthermore, even if such deposits exist, the deuterium industry alone won’t be able to wipe out the country’s current P14-trillion debt.

Supposed debt solver: Claims of deuterium as the solution to the country’s debt have been around since the 1980s. According to the University of the Philippines Marcos Regime Research program, a local “scientist” had claimed in an August 1987 article that the US and then-president Corazon Aquino were discussing the “deuterium project.” At the time, the country’s foreign debt was at $28 billion, which would have been covered by the promised economic gain from mining deuterium. Both the alleged scientist and his claims, however, have been questioned.

Even if massive deuterium deposits existed in the Philippines, their supposed yearly value of $30.66 billion would not be enough to wipe out the country’s current debt in just a year. As of end-June 2023, the national government’s outstanding debt is at P14.15 trillion ($251.9 billion), significantly larger than the figures nearly four decades ago.

Deuterium deposits: Claims regarding deuterium are not new and have been debunked since 1987. Rappler and VERA Files have already disproven rumors of the Philippines supposedly having the largest deuterium deposits in the world. 

Research shows that deuterium occurs in trace amounts in nature and about 1 in 6,400 hydrogen atoms in ocean water are in this form. In 1988, the Nonconventional Resources Division of what was then the Bureau of Energy Development, Office of Energy Affairs, explicitly debunked the deuterium myth, stating that “scientific facts make it impossible for deuterium deposits to be lodged in the Philippine Deep.”

Use of deuterium: According to a 2022 market research report, the global deuterium products market size is at $444.70 million (P24.9 billion) and is estimated to grow to $570.22 million (P32 billion) by 2028. 

In the Philippines, the use of deuterium as a possible energy source is still in the early research phase as of 2021. The Philippine National Oil Company told BusinessWorld: “The study is still ongoing, thus it is [too] early to provide findings at this time. Technologically speaking though, deuterium as fuel has not been widely researched and has only been used for nuclear fusion reactor prototypes.” 

Rappler has published several articles on the deuterium myth:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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