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Duterte wants Bongbong to pursue nuclear energy

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Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte was hoping that his successor, Bongbong Marcos Jr., would explore nuclear energy as an alternative power source to reduce the Philippines’ dependence on fossil fuels.

Duterte on Monday stressed the need to include nuclear in the country’s energy mix despite safety concerns amid the hostilities in Eastern Europe that severely affected global oil supply and prices.

“I hope that the next administration would at least explore the possibility of nuclear [energy],” he said, noting that it was under the Marcos administration that the talks on nuclear energy prospered.

The popular Chief Executive said it would be “good” for any government to transition from oil fossil fuel to nuclear because the former was not finite and costly.

“You know, oil is not infinite. It won’t last forever,” he said. “Someday it will dry up.”

In his public address, Duterte also noted the risks in shifting to nuclear, recalling the April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant which was considered the worst nuclear disaster in history both in cost and casualties.

The Philippines built its first and only nuclear power station, the $US2.3 billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, during the term of the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the height of the 1973 oil crisis.

It was located on a 3.57 square kilometer government reservation at Napot Point in Morong, Bataan.

The BNPP was 80 kilometers away west of Manila, near several volcanoes in a part of the Philippines regularly shaken by earthquakes.

The 620-megawatt plant never became operational due to alleged corruption and safety issues and amid nuclear fears following the 1986 Chernobyl explosion.

Critics argue that renewable sources such as wind and solar are cheaper and safer to produce in a country hit by earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic eruptions.

Talks about reviving the BNPP floated during the campaign season, with Bongbong signaling his determination to pursue his failed venture to bring down electricity costs in the country.

Marcos said he met South Korean Ambassador to Manila Kim Inchul on Monday to discuss a proposal on reviving the Bataan plant.

Duterte himself made efforts to push nuclear energy, as shown in issuing Executive Order 116 in 2020 to create an inter-agency committee tasked to conduct a study on the feasibility of introducing nuclear energy to the country’s power generation mix.

In 2019, the Philippines signed a memorandum of intent with Moscow-based Rosatom Overseas president Evgeny Pakermanov to “jointly explore the prospects of cooperation” in the construction of nuclear power plants.    

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