Chairman of Senate Energy Committee Senator Sherwin Gatchalian told the Department of Energy (DOE) to be more transparent with its nuclear energy plans as it remains controversial in the country.
This was said during the budget hearing on the DOE’s P97 million budget allocation for the country’s nuclear program agenda. The energy department’s overall budget for next year is P2.3 billion.
Gatchalian asked DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi whether the agency had already received President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval regarding their nuclear energy agenda.
“Our briefing disclosed to us that it was already endorsed to our President. The next question now is whether to pursue it or not. Right now, there seems to be no direction. If there’s no direction, does that mean do we still pursue or is that a tacit signal to pursue?” Gatchalian was quoted in a Manila Bulletin report.
The budget would be useless if the program failed to get the president’s approval, Gatchalian added.
“We already spent ₱48 million this year and next year, we will be spending ₱97 million. So, in total, we will be spending ₱135 million on this nuclear agenda but we don’t know whether the President wants to pursue it or not. Then, we get a signal from his trip that this might be unconstitutional,” he said.
Cusi explained that the nuclear program is part of the DOE’s mandate to look at possible alternative sources in line with the country’s target of energy security.
He added that creating a legal framework on the nuclear program would require a budget as they would need experts and consultants to conduct studies.
Cusi refused to comment on the public’s sentiment toward the government’s agency nuclear program as the DOE has yet to submit its report to the President.
“I think the more transparency we show the public, the more confidence that we build,” Gatchalian replied.
“Right now, even me, to be honest about it, on-the-need-to-know basis lang ang nakukuha ko. So, if I don’t make a request, hindi ko malalaman. Kaya kapag tinanong din ako, I don’t know what to answer,” the solon added.
Gatchalian also asked the DOE to submit a breakdown of how the agency spent this year’s budget for nuclear program and how the DOE is planning to spend the ₱97 million budget for fiscal year 2020.
“Right now, we don’t have a signal from the President on whether to go or not to go. And yet, we are undertaking more studies. What I would like to see is a detailed discussion on where the P48 million was spent,” he stressed.
“Nuclear power is a very controversial source of power. To be honest about it, we cannot cloak it in secrecy or else, the more the public will doubt us,” he added.