The bill to re-commission the BNPP to the Committee on Rules was passed as expected and may undergo marathon hearings in the weeks to come.
Nograles, others withdraw support for BNPP’s revival
By Gerry Baldo
Speaker Prospero Nograles led some 60 lawmakers in withdrawing support for the bill pushing for the rehabilitation and opening of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) even as the House of Representatives is set to deliberate and is expected to approve the measure on second reading this week.
Aside from Nograles, among the 60 lawmakers who had initially signed the bill as its co-authors and have withdrawn their endorsement of the proposal were Ilocos Norte province Rep. Roquito Ablan, Cavite province Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, Camarines Sur province Rep. Diosdado Arroyo, Camarines Sur province Rep. Luis Villafuerte, Batangas province Rep. Eileeen Ermita-Buhain , Iloilo province Rep. Janette Garin and House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora.
The measure to revive the BNPP, filed as House Bill 6300 or “An Act Mandating the Immediate Rehabilitation, Commissioning and Commercial Operation of the BNPP,” was proposed by Pangasinan province Rep. Mark Cojuangco in July last year.
In January, it hurdled the House committee on energy headed by presidential son and Pampanga province Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, without due consideration to concerns about the bill’s many faults.
Last week, the proposal passed the committee on rules and has now been put down in Congress’ order of business, meaning it will most likely be taken up in plenary in the next two weeks.
Concerns have been raised that the bill will be railroaded before the House adjourns on June 5.
HB 6300, a consolidated bill which lists only 125 co-authors, calls for the “immediate rehabilitation and commissioning” of the BNPP. The original bill, HB 4631, listed 185 co-authors.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), one of the lead groups opposing the revival of the nuclear plant in Morong town, Bataan province, alleged that in order for the bill seeking the revival the mothballed plant to obtain support and eventual approval, its authors have kept from the public its cost and the dangers it poses on people.
“There has been no recent feasibility study concerning the rehabilitation of the plant, and the bill does not make reference to any of the feasibility studies that were conducted before or after the plant was mothballed 22 years ago,” FDC media campaigner Bobby Diciembre said.
According to the National Power Corp. (Napocor), The government will need around $800 million, or an estimated P40 billion, to rehabilitate the mothballed nuclear power plant.
According to Napocor senior vice president Pio Benavidez, the state-owned firm would also need to spend an additional amount to put up new and additional transmission lines to connect the plant to the Luzon Grid.
Benavidez said the Napocor has sought a budget of P1 billion under the national budget to be used to restart the BNPP. He said for the feasibility study on the revival of the plant, Napocor has allotted a P100-million budget.
Benavidez said the Napocor has started undertaking a “systems verification review” to determine if all the parts of the plant can still be used. He said the Napocor early this year signed a memorandum of agreement with Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) for the conduct of a pre-feasibility study of the BNPP. He said the study is expected to be completed by October.
Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes has, though, said the Philippines is not yet ready for nuclear power.
“Let us not get into it (nuclear power) unless we are dead sure that we are ready. We don’t want another situation where we put an expensive power plant and we can’t use it. The most expensive nuclear power plant is one that you set up but is not operational. We don’t want another one like that. Thus, if the country is not ready, then it should not proceed with it,” Reyes said at a recent forum that had as a topic energy.
Reyes, however, said the Department of Energy was still keeping its options open on harnessing the BNPP since it is the cheapest source of power.
“We are keeping the nuclear power option as an option. But right now (I believe the country is) not ready for it,” he said.
The Catholic Church and non-government organizations have been airing opposition to the proposal to revive the BNPP, warning of the possible risks it poses to the public’s health and safety.