Stop reviving mothballed BNPP, Danding’s son told

Published by rudy Date posted on February 3, 2009

MANILA, Philippines — Echoing the concern of various non-government organizations, two congressmen yesterday called on lawmaker-proponents of the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) to stop pushing for the rehabilitation of the mothballed plant and instead develop renewable sources of energy.

Reps. Edcel Lagman of Albay and Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III of Quezon warned Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco against rehabilitating the so-called “Monster of Morong (in Bataan),” which was funded by a $2.2-billion loan during the Marcos regime that was deemed the epitome of corruption.

The lawmakers cautioned the government against releasing $1 billion for the BNPP’s revival, in anticipation of a power shortage in 2012. the BNPP will eventually cost electric consumers in Metro Manila and the rest of the country 10 centavos per kilowatt-hour.

“Why don’t we use the money instead in harnessing and developing renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, hydro and solar power which we have plenty of?” Tañada, chairman of the House committee on justice, suggested.

While Cojuangco – son of business tycoon and San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco – has assured the House committee on appropriations that all the safety issues would be addressed, Tañada said the overriding question is, “At what cost?”

“The committee on appropriations is said to be the most powerful committee. Consequently, it must never be a rubberstamp for the appropriation of public funds. The committee must be assured that the expenditure of government money is thoroughly justified,” Lagman said.

At the hearing, Lagman said that before approving the funding aspect of the measure, the appropriations panel must be assured that reviving the nuclear plant is the right thing to do.

“This is one important measure where the appropriation has to be thoroughly justified by the substantial provisions of the bill and validated or disputed by competent authorities as resource persons,” he said.

Cojuangco’s bill is up for second reading after it was approved late last year by the House committee on energy, headed by Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo.

The House appropriations committee of Quirino Rep. Junie Cua started yesterday its deliberation on the “appropriations language” of the BNPP revival measure.

Tañada, one of the principal authors of the Renewable Energy Law, said he is not against “nuclear energy per se, but there are certainly more economically viable alternatives” that do not have the “technical defects and safety issues” of BNPP.

He then called on his colleagues to revisit the findings of the committee of former justice minister Ricardo Puno in 1979, where it declared that the BNPP was “not safe,” and that it poses “health hazard to the public” in general.

Marcos had created the Puno commission to check on the BNPP construction.

Among its findings were that the BNPP was not safe, its design was plagued with unresolved safety issues (potential hazard to the health and safety of public), and the design needs fundamental changes and additional safeguards.

With the safety of the BNPP in question, it is imperative that requisite safety devices be installed if the nuclear plant would be activated. The crucial problem of nuclear waste disposal has also not been solved.

Any which way but nuke

The environmental group Greenpeace, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines were among the groups that registered strong opposition to the BNPP revival measure.

“To revive the BNPP would be to create greater social deficits and push the people deeper into the vicious debt and underdevelopment trap. To make the BNPP operational would be to gamble away the people’s lives on a lost deal,” said FDC vice president Etta Rosales.

According to Dr. Giovanni Tapang, national chair of the group AGHAM or the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan, the projected power shortage in 2012 can be addressed in other ways.

He said the government could build geothermal, hydropower, natural gas, wind and solar power plants instead of operating the nuclear plant in Bataan. It recommended that the government “build the necessary indicative capacity additions and develop and upgrade existing power plants.”

AGHAM is part of the Network Opposed to BNPP Revival (NO 2 BNPP Revival), a broad alliance of scientists, environmentalists, experts and multi-sectoral formations opposed to the revival of the BNPP. – Delon Porcalla with Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star

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