Duterte approves inclusion of nuclear power in Philippine energy mix

March 3, 2022 - 10:49 AM
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The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is seen during a media tour around the BNPP compound in Morong town, Bataan province, Philippines September 16, 2016. (Reuters/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order to include nuclear power in the country’s energy mix, as authorities prepare for the phasing out of coal-fired power plants and after earlier efforts failed due to safety concerns.

The order, signed on February 28 and made public on Thursday, could be a major milestone for the country’s energy sector which suffers regular power outages and high prices but will concern opponents of the move.

Signed just three months before Duterte ends his single six-year term, the order also directs an inter-agency panel the president created in 2020 to look into the viability of reopening the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

“The national government commits to the introduction of nuclear power energy into the state’s energy mix for power generation,” the order stated.

Despite public concerns over safety, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has passionately advocated for nuclear power, which he said could be the answer to the twin problems of precarious supply and high electricity prices.

Taking into consideration the experience of developed economies, Duterte said nuclear power would be tapped as a viable alternative baseload power source as the Philippines seeks to retire coal plants in line with its commitment to help limit climate change.

Previous attempts to pursue nuclear energy in the Philippines failed due to safety concerns, but central to the new plan is the revival of the BNPP, built during the rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Built in 1976 in response to an energy crisis, and completed in 1984, the government mothballed it two years later following Marcos’ ouster and the deadly Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Since 2009, the BNPP has been opened as a tourist attraction for a fee, helping defray the cost of maintaining it.

The late dictator’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who is currently the front-runner in the May presidential election, has said he plans to “revisit” the BNPP project, local media has reported.

—Bataan Nuclear Power PlantReporting by Enrico Dela CruzEditing by Ed Davies