Gatchalian: Legislation for Philippine nuclear energy policy up to next Congress

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Gatchalian: Legislation for Philippine nuclear energy policy up to next Congress
Late last month, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 164 which commits the Philippines to taking steps in introducing nuclear in its energy mix and developing a national nuclear power program with it. 
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian said on Friday that there is no more time to pass legislation related to nuclear power since the 18th Congress ends its session in less than a week.

His statement comes days after President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order committing the Philippines to developing a nuclear power program. 

"Establishing nuclear power from the ground up entails numerous pieces of legislation and policies to ensure the safety of the public. With six session days left in this 18th Congress, there is no ample time to enact any nuclear power-related laws," the lawmaker said in a statement sent by his media relations department over Viber on Friday.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee, also said that the new administration must embark on science-based research and conduct studies to determine whether the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the risks. 

He added that transparency is "the most important factor" in discussions surrounding nuclear power.

Gatchalian also called on the Department of Energy to disclose the results of its nuclear research and feasibility study, the funding of which reached P266 million since 2018. According to him, the Senate funded the study. 

"This study should be made public in order for the Filipino people to understand the risks and benefits of nuclear power injected into our energy mix," he said. 

Late last month, Duterte signed EO 164 which commits the Philippines to taking steps in introducing nuclear in its energy mix and developing a national nuclear power program with it. 

A copy of the EO, which was made available to reporters on Thursday, showed that Duterte believes nuclear power to be a "viable alternative source" of baseload power which will address the projected decline of coal power plants, while helping reduce carbon emissions. 

READ: Duterte order commits Philippines to developing nuclear energy program

The country is mainly powered by coal, which accounted for 48.2% of the generation mix, followed by natural gas at 25.7%, renewables (solar, hydro, geothermal, biomass and wind) at 23.2% and lastly, oil at 2.8%, based on data from the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines.

Two senators support nuclear

On Friday, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III expressed their support for the EO detailing the country's nuclear policy.

"Nuclear energy is the cheapest, but we haven't harnessed it yet...Our main consideration there is safety, because – we are on the earthquake belt and all that," Lacson said in a statement shared by the tandem's campaign team over Viber. 

For his part, Senate President Sotto affirmed that he "supports the proposal of the President" for the country to venture into nuclear energy. 

Both lawmakers are vying for the presidency and vice presidency in this year's elections.

Several groups, including Greenpeace Philippines and local think tank Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) believe that nuclear power will do more harm than good to Filipinos. 

In a previous statement, Greenpeace demanded that the Duterte administration revoke the EO, saying that the policy is not aligned with the Filipino people's interests, after calling nuclear as the "most dangerous and most expensive source of electricity."

Pursuing nuclear power will add to the country's growing debt, Greenpeace Campaigner Khevin Yu said, citing "steep capital costs for construction, operation of nuclear plants, enormous costs of radioactive fuel storage, and costs for managing a nuclear incident."

Uranium and plutonium, which are used in nuclear projects, can neither be sourced locally so the country will have to buy its supply from other nations, according to CEED Executive Director Gerry Arances. 

"[The] price of fuel for nuclear energy like plutonium and uranium, neither of which can be sourced domestically, is bound to rise. It’s not wise to turn our energy sector more vulnerable than it already is to global shocks when we have an abundant supply of renewable energy just waiting to be developed," he told Philstar.com in a previous interview.

READ: It's too late for Duterte's nuclear energy push as term nears end








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