Senators question DOE's proposed P97-million nuke program fund

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 11 2019 01:07 AM

MANILA—Senators on Thursday questioned the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposal to seek funding for the country's nuclear power research program.

During the agency’s hearing for its P2.3-billion budget for 2020, DOE proposed a P97-million fund for studies on nuclear energy, which is almost double from its P48-million budget in 2018.

"Why are we spending already? Ba’t nasa budget na eh hindi pa naman ina-approve. 'Wag natin gastusan," Sen. Imee Marcos said.

In the absence of a national policy on nuclear energy, it may be prudent not to include it in the budget, the senators added.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said studies have to be conducted to explore other forms of energy, such as nuclear power. 

"There is no explicit approval [from President Rodrigo Duterte] that we go nuclear. We already submitted to the president a national nuclear policy and that has not yet been approved," he said.

During the hearing, Cusi was asked to clarify the country's plan on a possible joint exploration of nuclear energy with Russia.

He responded, "The agreement that we have reached is that ROSATOM, the state-owned company in Russia, will do the feasibility study of looking at Bataan [nuclear power plant] and looking at the other areas for possible modular nuclear - both offshore and onshore."

"So it is just a feasibility study," he added. 

Cusi said the budget request was intended to prepare the country for the possible inclusion of nuclear power in the current energy mix, "considering the vulnerability of the country, and what we need to [do] to have energy sufficiency."

"Kasi po hindi tayo makakapagbigay ng concrete recommendation without coordination and proper studies, without looking at all the infrastructure concerns. These all have to be studied and we have to prepare the people to do that,” he said.

“Part of the budget is also [for] capacity building,” he added. 

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee, said DOE must submit a "detailed discussion" on how the 2018 allocation for the nuclear agenda was utilized, as well as specific plans and programs under the its 2020 budget request.

Gatchalian earlier cautioned the Philippine government on its plan to explore nuclear energy with Russia, saying the country lacks a comprehensive legal framework on the use of nuclear power.