Congressman, bishop slam plans to re-open BNPP

Cusi: Chinese gov’t to help assess BNPP operations

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman recently questioned the proposed Php92.3-billion budget to reopen and maintain the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), branding it as a memorial of greed and corruption during the Martial Law era.

At a House plenary hearing on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2021 budget, Lagman pointed out that the country might have spent over Php2 billion the past four decades for a facility that was built, but never used.

The National Power Corporation, the DOE-attached agency which oversees the BNPP’s operations, got Php52.6 million for 2020 and Php86.6 million in 2019 to maintain the controversial power plant.

Zamboanga City Rep. Jose Dalipe, who sponsored the DOE’s budget bill, said the money would be used to replace the roofs of the BNPP main building and fix its fences.

Built during the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos, construction and operations of the BNPP halted in the wake of nuclear disasters abroad.

An investigation later revealed that the BNPP had over 4,000 defects. Among them are its site being close to a major fault line and its proximity to then-dormant Mount Pinatubo in neighboring Zambales. Mount Pinatubo eventually erupted in 1991.

Debt repayment woes have plagued the BNPP since its completion in the mid-1980s. Since then it had been the government’s largest single obligation.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the DOE to conduct a public consultation with Bataan residents on the matter. However, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos reiterated opposition to the BNPP’s revival. “The voice of our people is strongly, openly no,” Santos said in an article by Catholic Church-run CBCP News.

Duterte signed Executive Order 116 ordering various agencies led by the DOE to evaluate if nuclear energy is a viable power option long-term.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier said the Philippines was almost done fulfilling the industry requirements for nuclear development, as prescribed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, a policy and regulatory framework to allow the re-entry of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix has yet to be enforced. Cusi expects the government to adopt such policy by year’s end.