MANILA, Philippines – Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas has expressed fear that the planned re-commissioning of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) might become another source of corruption in the country.
In a pastoral statement released yesterday, Villegas said the proposed $1 billion budget that would be used to rehabilitate the power plant might just be another source of graft and corruption.
“According to expert and reliable sources, 20 percent of the budget of any government projects mysteriously vanishes on the way to completion and ends up with graft and corruption,” he said.
“And given such data, Bataan Nuclear Power Plant carries a 10-year time plan, but the question is: how many people will get rich? Let us bear in mind that it is not the government that will pay for the project. It is the people,” the prelate said.
Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco is pushing for the passage of House Bill 4631 also known as the “Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Commissioning Act of 2008.”
The bill seeks to rehabilitate the power plant to free the country from its dependence on coal-powered plant.
Villegas stressed that the nuclear power plant has been paid from the taxes of the people yet they never benefited from it.
“The nuclear power plant has been paid from the taxes of the people. The amount was $2.3 billion for the plant, $460 million for the interest. Yet, we never had gotten anything out of it. And now, it is proposed that we spend another $1 billion only for its rehabilitation,” the bishop said.
Villegas claimed that only those who want to amass wealth and power would benefit from the project and not the people.
“This project was conceived not to really help but to serve as front for some people who wanted to gloat themselves with wealth and affluence at the expense of the poor people,” he said.
Villegas urged the public to join them in a prayer rally on Feb. 23 in front of the St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Balanga City.
“If you truly care for the country, come. Stand up,” said Villegas.
Proposals to re-open the BNPP have again sparked debates regarding its safety, economic viability and sustainability issues.
Various Filipino scientists have cautioned lawmakers and policy makers that these questions have to be clearly answered before making any decision on the rehabilitation of the decades-old plant.
But Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro earlier said the decision whether or not to push through with nuclear energy in the country “should be based on a thorough study of risks vis a vis benefits.” – Helen Flores with Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star