Written by Tribune Editorial
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
The Department of Energy hauled members of Congress to the BNPP site in Morong, Bataan last Friday to assess the condition of the plant which was completed but never used.
The BNPP is a project of the late President Ferdinand Marcos which cost the government $2.3 billion to build before anti-nuke protests and the assumption of former President Cory Aquino doomed its fate.
Aquino’s acts were centered on uprooting the legacy of Marcos that unfortunately included the BNPP.
Investigations made during the term of Cory concluded that the project was anomalous and thus should never be operated despite the huge cost incurred for it.
In 2007, the Philippines completed the payment of the debt for the BNPP’s construction which was ready to run in 1984.
Senators who went to the BNPP tour were all convinced that the country should use nuclear power in generating electricity but were not unanimous on the reactivation of the BNPP.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, opposed plans to revive the BNPP but his committee mates Senators Nancy Binay and Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said they were “open” to the plant’s rehabilitation.
Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, who has tirelessly advocated the country’s entry into the nuclear age, made a presentation at the site to make a case about nuclear power being among the safest source of power and that nuclear energy provides the cheapest power cost in the long run.
Binay said it’s high time that the government gives a firm position on what to do with the BNPP. “We must remember that we continue to spend for this plant every year although it does not produce electricity,” she added.
Until 2007, the government had been shelling out P300 million to pay off debts and for the maintenance of the plant. Last year, P27 million was alloted for the upkeep of the plant.
Ejercito sought a policy on the BNPP saying “either we operate it or we scrap it altogether.”
The camp of Sen. Sonny Angara also issued a statement saying the senator is open to “the general idea of using nuclear power plants as an additional source of energy for the country.”
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the government will be transparent on the BNPP issue, adding that the government will continue to listen to “those who are opposing it.”
“But after 40 years that the BNPP has been mothballed, maybe by this time we are more informed on how it could have benefited us had we put up (a nuclear plant) in the country,” Cusi said.
The traditional critics of nuclear power have made known that they will spring back to life if the government pushes the use of nuclear power.
Churches in Bataan said they will start putting up streamers to oppose the BNPP resurrection.
Churches in all parishes in Bataan will put up tarpaulins opposing the BNPP, according to a bishop.
The recurring problem of the country is power supply and the local cost of electricity is among the highest in the world despite the abundance of indigenous power sources such as natural gas, geothermal and hydro-electric plants.
The problem lies in the frequent power outages, either intentional or not, which causes the cost of electricity to spike in the spot market.
Of course, the power purchase agreement that was the result of onerous contracts signed during the term of former President Fidel Ramos, when he exercised emergency powers to solve the frequent brownouts, has been
a major component of electricity bills along with high taxes that have made electricity prices exorbitant.
The BNPP, for instance, if not for the jaundiced protests, could have been continuously supplying 600 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to the biggest power plant fueled by coal, less the black smoke. What is elementary is that the economy, the “fastest-growing in Asia,” would require an equivalent boost in power supply.