MANILA (UPDATE) — The United States and the Philippines are starting negotiations on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement that could lead to future sales of US nuclear reactors to the Southeast Asian country, the White House said Monday.
The "123 agreement" is one of the initiatives US Vice President Kamala Harris will be launching during her visit in the Philippines and her expected meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during the day.
"Once in force, this agreement will provide the legal basis for U.S. exports of nuclear equipment and material to the Philippines," the White House said in a statement.
The agreement is in line with the US' "commitment" to working with the Philippines to "increase energy security and deploying advanced nuclear reactor technology as quickly as safety and security conditions permit to meet the Philippines’ dire baseload power needs."
"Such a deployment would support both energy security and climate goals, as well as support workers and businesses in both countries," the White House said.
Marcos had said that he was looking into reviving the shelved Bataan Nuclear Power Plant built during his late father's administration.
The agreement, along with Harris' several other initiatives, aims to address the range of issues expected to be raised during her Nov. 20-22 visit in the country.
"The Vice President’s travel to the Philippines reaffirms the bilateral alliance and will spur cooperation on a range of issues, including: advancing clean energy, addressing the climate crisis, promoting inclusive growth and innovation, increasing access to quality education and health resources, combating trafficking in persons, facing common security challenges, supporting freedom of the seas, and deepening people-to-people ties," the White House said.
Also among the issues Harris is expected to tackle with Marcos is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which was signed by the US and Philippine governments in 2014.
"The United States has allocated over $82 million towards EDCA implementation at all five existing locations. This investment, and forthcoming additional allotment, will complete 21 projects, enabling the United States and the Philippines to build lasting security infrastructure to promote long-term modernization, build a credible mutual defense posture, maintain humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities, and enhance the strength of the alliance," the White House said.
The Gabriela Women’s Party said it is protesting the visit of the US vice president "especially as it has been revealed that Harris’ trip comes with it a package of dangerous deals including a new civil nuclear cooperation agreement."
"There are research studies that prove that small modular nuclear reactors may actually generate more radioactive waste than conventional nuclear power plants," the group said.
"This agreement may also be used to discreetly export and install nuclear weapons in the country – at a time when the US is aggressively ramping up its military presence in the Philippines and in Asia-Pacific."
The group also expressed objection to the "proposal to build five more shared locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), as this will signal increased deployment of US military troops and hardware to the country."
"This dangerously sets the platform for US military build-up in our bases and drags us closer to the risk of confrontations and war aside from making more women and children vulnerable to abuse by US troops," Gabriela said.
House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro echoed the same concerns.
"Ang mahirap dito, baka tayong mga mamamayang Pilipino ang ma-123 at maging mga guinea pigs ng teknolohiyang ito na tinetesting pa lang ng US," Castro said of the nuclear agreement.
US COMMITMENT TO THE PHILIPPINES
The United States is also planning to deploy more "reliable and secure" 5G networks in the Philippines, the White House said.
Since becoming independent in 1946, the Philippines has enjoyed deep, longstanding ties with the United States.
"The United States and the Philippines stand together as friends, partners, and allies. Now and always, the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Philippines is ironclad, and we are committed to strengthening our economic and investment relationship," the White House said.
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