Some 19 months after ordering a study to determine the feasibility of introducing nuclear energy into the Philippines’ power generation mix, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the adoption of a “national position for a nuclear energy program” to address the country’s projected phaseout of coal-fired plants. (The Philippines participated in last November’s COP26 conference, where it affirmed its commitment “to shift away from the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel.”)
According to Executive Order 164, signed by Duterte on February 28 and made public last week, “The competitive position of nuclear energy is recognized, and the experience of highly developed countries shows that nuclear power can be a reliable, cost-competitive, and environment-friendly energy source.”
The order instructs the country’s Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and implement a nuclear program as part of the Philippine Energy Plan. In addition, the order calls on the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee, which carried out the feasibility study, to look into resurrecting the never-fueled Bataan nuclear power plant.
About Bataan: The Bataan plant, announced in 1973 by President Ferdinand Marcos and essentially completed by 1985, was mothballed following the overthrow of the Marcos regime by Corazon Aquino in 1986. Aquino had made clear her opposition to the plant during her campaign, citing concerns over safety and charges of corruption. To make matters worse for supporters of the country’s only nuclear power facility, two months after Aquino’s accession, the Chernobyl accident occurred in Ukraine.
Positive reactions: The DOE welcomed the executive order, with Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi stating, “We thank the president for seeing merit in the DOE’s recommendation to consider integrating nuclear energy into our country’s energy mix. Since we want a stable, reliable, and sustainable energy resource, I believe that nuclear is the way to go.”
Also endorsing Duterte’s decision was Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the Philippine House Committee on Ways and Means. “Let me make it very clear: I support the pursuit of safe and reliable nuclear energy,” he said. “It is the most dependable energy source. The country’s national and economic security would be stronger with nuclear energy. We would be more energy independent with nuclear energy. We must approach nuclear energy with eyes and minds wide open, not with irrational, sentimental fear.”
Noteworthy: The order cites a 2019 public-perception survey indicating that a majority of Filipinos hold pronuclear sentiments. Nearly 79 percent approved or were accepting of the possible use of the Bataan plant, about 65 percent endorsed the construction of new nuclear power plants, and more than 78 percent said they were willing to learn more about nuclear energy.