MANILA—Vice-President Leni Robredo said nuclear power can be used as a power source, but should not be prioritized in the face of the global climate crisis.
"While bukas tayo sa discussions on tapping nuclear energy, least of our priorities 'yun dahil 'yung priority talaga natin ngayon, papunta na tayo doon sa COP26 commitment natin na carbon-neutral na tayo by 2050," Robredo said in an interview with media on Friday.
(While we are open to discussing tapping nuclear energy, it is the least of our priorities since we have committed to the COP26 to be carbon-neutral by 2050.)
This came after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed an executive order on February 29 to include nuclear power in the country's energy mix to prepare for the phasing out of coal-fired power plants and after earlier efforts failed because safety concerns.
The Philippines signed on 2021 a commitment along with 40 other countries to shift away from coal as a source of energy.
But Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, who signed on behalf of the Philippines, only endorsed 2 out of the 4 clauses of the agreement: to rapidly scale up deployment of clean power generation, and to make a just transition away from coal power in a way that benefits workers and communities.
Cusi did not sign to commit phasing out coal power in economies in the 2030s for major economies and 2040s for the rest of the world, and to end all investment in new coal-power generation domestically and internationally.
Despite public concerns over safety, Cusi has advocated for nuclear power, which he said could be the answer to the twin problems of precarious supply and high electricity prices.
The Bataan nuclear power plant has been shut since 1986 over concerns of its proximity to dormant Mount Natib volcano, and worries over the energy source following the Chernobyl disaster.
The 1986 explosion in the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, northern Ukraine caused the immediate death of two workers, and subsequently of 28 firemen and emergency clean-up workers due to Acute Radiation Sickness and another one due to cardiac arrest, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
More than 200,000 people were displaced because of the accident, and at least 1,800 cases of thyroid cancer were documented in children aged up to 14 years old when the accident happened, the IAEA said.
The site of the explosion and 1,000 square-miles surrounding has been shut since, until Russian forces invading Ukraine captured the area.
While the Bataan plant remained an option, Robredo said other renewable sources should be defined for the country's energy mix.
"Dapat ang pinag-uusapan ngayon 'yung road map papunta sa pagiging carbon-neutral natin. 'Yung preference sa indigenous sources of power, preference for renewables," Robredo said.
(What we should be giving priority is indigenous and renewable sources of power as part of our roadmap to being carbon-neutral.)
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, one of Robredo's opponents for the 2022 presidential bid, strongly opposed the revival of the power plant.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr, meanwhile, has said he planned to "revisit" the BNPP project, local media has reported. — With a report from Reuters and Gillian Ropero, ABS-CBN News