House approves P100 million for new Bataan Nuclear Power Plant study

Published by rudy Date posted on March 6, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The House appropriations committee approved yesterday a P100-million allocation for a new study on the viability of commissioning the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, senior committee vice chairman, proposed the new “validation or feasibility” study as a “compromise” to the bill of Pangasinan Rep. Marcos Cojuangco seeking the “immediate rehabilitation and commissioning” of the nuclear plant.

The bill of Cojuangco is facing stiff opposition from many congressmen and civil society groups, as well as from Catholic bishops. The lawmaker is a son of billionaire businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. who has investments in power distribution and oil refining and retailing.

Lagman said a fourth study has to be conducted to determine whether the nuclear plant could still be operated despite its being mothballed since the Marcos years due largely to unresolved safety issues.

He said the results of three previous studies should be used as references by a group of local and international experts who would be commissioned to undertake the new study.

He said the P100-million budget would be taken from this year’s budget of the Department of Energy and the state-owned National Power Corp.

Lagman said a provision in the committee-approved allocation prohibits the commissioning of the plant ahead of the completion of the new study.

Rep. Cojuangco initially frowned upon Lagman’s proposal, saying a “feasibility study” is “politician’s language that connotes inaction and indecision.”

“We should decide once and for all whether we want to operate this plant or to sell it for its junk value,” he said.

He said at present, the government is spending P40 million a year for the upkeep of the plant, which has not generated a single watt of electricity.

Quirino Rep. Junie Cua, appropriations committee chairman, prevailed upon Cojuangco to accept the compromise.

After Lagman’s proposal was accepted, Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque suggested that portions of the Cojuangco bill that are “incongruous” with the compromise be deleted.

Golez said the “incongruous” portions include allowing the National Power Corp. to immediately rehabilitate and operate the nuclear plant.

He said this might be interpreted as an authority for Napocor to operate the plant even while the mandated new feasibility study is still underway.

“If these irrelevant portions are not deleted, this will be a ridiculous and a defective bill,” he said.

Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, a co-author of the commissioning bill, said even if the new study finds the plant to be operable and viable, it would still go through a process of licensing by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“This process alone will take time and is usually more strict and tedious than a validation or feasibility study,” he said.

Protests continue

Groups opposed to the activation of the BNPP vowed to launch more protest actions.

“From now on, the public and the broad social movement against the revival of the BNPP will keep tabs on each legislator’s position, action and/or inaction on the said issue. However, special attention will be given to the 184 legislators who have rendered their support to the bill,” said Emman Hizon of the Freedom from Debt Coalition. Members of the group as well as of the Network Opposed to BNPP or No to BNPP picketed yesterday outside the Batasang Pambansa complex.

“Those who have put their signatures to the Cojuangco bill, their reasons notwithstanding, are now under the watchful eyes of the Filipino public,” Hizon said.

FDC appealed to the pro-BNPP lawmakers to withdraw their signatures, citing the “gross disadvantages” and “monumental folly” of operating the BNPP.

“Like the mothballed BNPP, we appeal to the highest sense of our legislators to also mothball Rep. Cojuangco’s bill. We believe such a detrimental legislative measure has no place in the halls of responsible lawmaking,” Hizon said.

NO to BNPP described the mothballed plant as “tremendously dangerous, economically disadvantageous and utterly defective.”

“The protest parade symbolizes the many reasons why the BNPP revival will bring death to the Filipino people if the bill is not put to a close once and for all,” Dr. Giovanni Tapang, spokesman of NO to BNPP said.

“The Arroyo administration and Cong. Mark Cojuangco are running out of reasons to justify the revival of the Bataan nuke plant. The majority of the people of Bataan and their provincial government have already signified their opposition to the plant revival. Even if it passed legislation, the people of Bataan are sure not to allow it,” Tapang said.

“Moreover, the Catholic Church has taken an anti-BNPP revival position and the general public is against this nuclear scheme of the Arroyo administration.” Tapang added. With Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star

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