Marcos’ SONA: Green groups say no to nuclear, yes to renewable energy

July 26, 2022 - 5:35 PM
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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. speaks as Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez applaud during his first State of the Nation Address, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2022. (Aaron Favila/Pool via Reuters)

Two environmental organizations bat for renewable energy over nuclear power, both of  President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. bore his plans for the energy sector during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25.

Marcos tackled the need to build more power plants and look for other sources to address the growing energy demand.

He then recommended revisiting nuclear power plants as an alternative source of energy under his term.

“I believe also it is time to re-examine our strategy towards building nuclear power plants in the Philippines,” Marcos said.

“We will comply of course with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations for nuclear power plants as they have been strengthened after Fukushima.  In the area of nuclear power, there have been new technologies developed that allow smaller scale modular nuclear plants and other derivations thereof,” he added.

READ: FULL TEXT: Marcos’ 2022 State of the Nation Address Key points raised by Marcos in 1st SONA

How green groups reacted

Greenpeace Philippines and Youth Advocates for Climate Action (YACAP), however, voiced their opposition to the government’s consideration of using nuclear power as an energy source in the Philippines.

In a social media post, YACAP pointed out that the high costs of constructing nuclear power plants outweigh the benefits of it for Filipinos.

“Although relying on nuclear power plants may lower the cost of electricity for Filipinos, building one would take billions, not to mention the possible health and environmental hazards and contamination power plants may impose on the public,” said the youth organization.

YACAP urged Marcos to instead look into democratizing and harnessing renewable energy sources for a fossil fuel-free Philippines in the future.

“With the country’s favorable geographical location, as he said in his speech, it would be much better to harness solar, wind and hydro energies to genuinely solve energy insecurity and the inflation of the energy rate in the Philippines,” it said.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, posted a popular meme that referenced Mr. Incredible, a character from Disney’s “The Incredibles” to express its reaction to Marcos’ key points on energy and climate change.

“Hirap ng mixed signals,” the post reads.

The org then asked its followers: “What are your thoughts about the President’s 1st SONA, particularly his points on climate change and energy development?”

The meme was based on the official art of Mr. Incredibles for “The Incredibles 2”, a sequel to the animated superhero franchise that was released in 2018.

For this one, the green group used the meme format to juxtapose Marcos’ points on renewable energy (solar, hydropower) with his push on non-renewable energy (nuclear, natural gas).

Renewable energy, at ‘top’ of agenda

While environmental groups frowned upon Marcos’ pitch to explore nuclear power options, the president stressed that renewable energy would be the priority in his climate policy.

“The use of renewable energy is at the top of our climate agenda. We will increase our use of renewable energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal power, solar, and wind,” he said.

The call to drop the nuclear power stance was on the “green wish list” that environmental groups released for Marcos before his inauguration.

READ: Green groups’ ‘wish list’ for Marcos admin: Give up nuclear energy plans, end red-tagging of envi defenders 

Others on social media, meanwhile, expressed support for the president’s recommendation of using nuclear power plants.

“It is about time. The nuclear power plant will provide a long-term steady supply of power (inexpensive). Nuclear power plant projects are based on science and technology — that would provide a long-term steady supply of power (electricity),” one Facebook user said.

“Bababa ang presyo ng kuryente, madaming investment pa ang papasok sa bansa,” another Facebook user commented.

For Marcos’ ally in the Senate, Sherwin Gatchalian, nuclear energy must be studied “very carefully.”

Gatchalian pointed out, as Marcos did, that there are more modern options on this track that can be explored.