MANILA, Philippines - The bill to “rehabilitate and commission” the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) reached the floor of the House on Monday, June 1, amid diminishing interest in the project and growing skepticism that it would ever reach formal deliberation.  However, the bill was returned to the House Energy Committee following an intervention by Bataan Rep. Albert Garcia.

Congress has been meeting since Monday, May 25 in “marathon session,” to take up “priority bills” before the session closes June 3.

Garcia protested against taking up the bill as it had not, in its current consolidated form, been reviewed and approved by the House Energy Committee.  The discussion was suspended.

“This has been the problem of the bill all along,” said Etta Rosales, Vice President of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) a lead organization in the Network Opposed to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (NO to BNPP) campaign.  “The process has been backwards, without proper review by the appropriate committees,” Rosales, a former congresswoman said when she learned of Garcia’s move.  “They have been using sneaky maneuvers to push this through without a proper feasibility study, and without any realistic estimate of the costs.”  

The bill was first introduced in July last year (HB 4631) by principal authors Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan and Rep. Mikey Arroyo of Pampanga with 185 co-authors.  In its more recent consolidated form (HB 6300) it contained only 125 co-signers.  

The BNPP was mothballed in 1986 before it was ever operated because of concerns about health and safety.  The plant is located in Morong, Bataan on the slope of a volcano in an earthquake zone.  It was built by Westinghouse at a cost of $2.3 billion, not counting debt service.

While reiterating concerns over its design, safety, and construction, as well as the potential costs, the central argument of civil society organizations is that the bill has not been preceded by a recent feasibility study.  

“Without a feasibility study Congress is being asked to vote on a project without any idea of the eventual cost, and without any knowledge of the potential hazards,” according to Rosales.

She described the bill as a “hodgepodge” without any consistent intent.  “The only thing that can be discussed at this point is the need for a feasibility study,” she stressed.

The issue of a feasibility study appears deep in the proposal where it asks for an appropriation of P100 million to conduct a study to determine the “viability of rehabilitating, commissioning and commercially operating the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant as a nuclear facility taking into consideration technical, safety, economic, financial and ecological concerns and using previous feasibility studies conducted before and after the BNPP was mothballed in 1986.”  It is the only part of the bill that appropriates a specific amount of money.  

Rosales said that this should be a stand-alone bill, and described the rest of the bill as “irrelevant.”

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