H3: Envi group condemns EO, says it must be revoked
MANILA (UPDATE)— 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 Feb. 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 3 months before Duterte ends his single 6-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.
Greenpeace: EO must be revoked
Greenpeace, one of the groups in the country vocal against the use of nuclear energy, in a statement described the EO as a "desperate and misguided" move which does not represent the interest of Filipinos.
Campaigner Khevin Yu said nuclear energy "is the most dangerous and most expensive source of electricity" which comes as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing debt.
“The signing of this EO and Sec Cusi’s continued peddling of the interests of the nuclear industry is a blatant disregard of the people’s call for a concrete, sustainable, and safe solution to the energy crisis through renewable energy," Yu said.
"We are calling on the next administration to ensure that their first order of business is to scrap the so-called nuclear option once and for all," he added.
Greenpeace emphasized that the pursuit to nuclear is expensive and impractical due to the high cost of construction and operation of nuclear plants, and the "enormous" price of radioactive fuel storage and its management.
The issuance of the EO came as the United Nation's released a report saying climate change is impacting the world far faster than scientists had anticipated.
The report noted that green agenda and a strong political commitment are needed to solve the climate crisis, Greenpeace pointed out.
"Instead of responding with urgency, the government is exposing us to greater risks," the group said.
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 2 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 Marco 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.