MANILA, Philippines – Despite indications that the move to immediately rehabilitate and operate  the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is losing steam, the Freedom from Debt Coalition continues to ramp up its campaign to derail the effort.

In an open letter to Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, FDC, a lead member of the Network Opposed to BNPP (NO to BNPP), concurred with statements he made last week which seemed to question the rush by some members of Congress to rehabilitate the BNPP.

Reyes noted that all stakeholders need to be on board if the plant is to be revived.  There is in fact considerable opposition to the facility from the community, including a resolution against rehabilitating BNPP passed by the Bataan Provincial Board on March 2, this year.  

Reyes also stated that it would take 15 years before the Philippines could build up the technical capacity necessary to operate a nuclear power plant.

Reyes was referring to a legislation in Congress (HB 6300) introduced by Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco for the “immediate rehabilitation and commissioning” of the controversial nuclear power plant.

BNPP was mothballed in 1986 over concerns about safety.  It is located in an earthquake zone in Morong, Bataan, and was built on the slopes of an ancient volcano.  The plant was never operated.

Cojuangco and Pampanga Rep. Mickey Arroyo first introduced the legislation in February to rehabilitate the plant (HB 4631).  That bill listed 185 co-authors.  The consolidated bill, HB 6300, now contains only 125 co-authors.  

“This indicates that support for this bill is wearing away” said FDC vice president Etta Rosales, a former party-list representative, adding “that doesn’t mean, however, that we can be complacent.”  

Rosales said that this dwindling support is, at least in part, due to the “People Are Watching You Campaign” that FDC and the NO to BNPP launched on April 1.  Members of the FDC network nationwide have been vigilantly watching over their representative regarding the bill.

In both the open letter to Reyes, and in a critique of HB 6300, FDC anchored its concern on the bill’s lack of a feasibility study.  There is no feasibility study and the bill has no reference to scientific studies conducted before or after BNPP was mothballed in 1986.   

“There are serious issues here regarding the cost of rehabilitating BNPP, and the health and safety aspects.  These issues cannot be debated by Congress in a meaningful way without a feasibility study, otherwise they are being asked to vote on something without knowing the cost, and without knowing the risks,” Rosales said.   

Westinghouse was originally contracted to build BNPP as a two-reactor plant for $600,000.  In the end, a single reactor plant was built for $2.3 billion, not including debt service.

Philippine energy plans, FDC says in its letter to Reyes, should be consistent with the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. With its recently approved Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), the said law is considered the first and most comprehensive renewable energy legislation in Southeast Asia.

After passing the committee on rules last week, HB 6300 is among the “priority bills” to be debated by Congress in its remaining sessions before it adjourns on June 5.

FDC concludes its letter to Reyes by urging the Department of Energy to protect the people’s right to “live safely and securely against the dangers and economic costs threatened by any rehabilitation and operation of the BNPP.”  -30-

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