Power plants being proposed by the United States to the Philippines as part of their cooperation on energy security are safer, smaller, cheaper, Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said Monday.
Manila’s top diplomat to Washington also said there is no need to reestablish the American military bases in the Philippines if the country opens its facilities to the US, should the Russian-Ukraine crisis spill over to the Asian region.
The country is currently grappling with a fuel crisis as pump prices have soared past P80 a liter for both gasoline and diesel fuel, but the government has resisted calls to suspend excise taxes on fuels that would drop prices by five to six pesos a liter.
Interviewed on Super Radyo dzBB, Romualdez noted the recently-signed Memorandum of Understanding on Concerning Strategic Civil Nuclear Cooperation (NCMOU), where the US offered the Philippines its new development on nuclear energy.
“They call it the modular type which are small nuclear plants to give power to areas. That’s good for us because we have 7,600 islands and we’ll be able to power them up. That’s really important because energy is the number one requirement now that we need, as well as cheap power and clean energy,” he said.
Aside from being cheaper and smaller, Romualdez pointed out that the power plants are also safer, delineating its difference from the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
“There are many new developments in that area. The nuclear power plant that we call modular is only small. They said they can set them up in as little as six months. It’s safer. There might be only a little waste. At the same time, its cooling system is also so much safer,” he said.
On new American military presence in the Philippines, Romualdez explained there is no need to make another treaty for the US to be able to erect military bases anew in the country, as the provision of their facilities will only be temporary.
“‘The bases are gone. In other words, if they need our facilities, it will only be temporary. Most likely it’s only maybe for their supplies or repair of their ships there in Subic,” he said.
Romualdez earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed willingness to open Philippine facilities to the US if they would ask for support when “push comes to shove.”
He pointed out that former military bases in Clark, Pampanga, and in Subic, Zambales may be opened to the US in case of “emergency.”
In 1991, the Senate rejected a proposed treaty that would have extended an agreement on the presence of American military bases in the Philippines. This pact was the Philippines-US military bases agreement, entered into in 1947.
Though the 1991 Senate vote meant an end to longtime American military presence in the country, the Philippines and the US’ defense and security relationship continued under the Mutual Defense Treaty, according to a Supreme Court ruling.
The Philippines last ventured into a nuclear program in 1976 when then-President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. ordered the construction of the
$2.3 billion-worth BNPP. However, it was shelved after three years due to safety concerns.
“It’s an old technology but we can also revive that (nuclear plant). They can put new safety valves there,” Romualdez said.
In a statement dated March 10, the US State Department noted the NCMOU aims to improve both parties’ cooperation on energy security and strengthen their diplomatic and economic relationship.
Bonnie Jenkins, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security signed for the US, while DOE Undersecretary Gerardo Erguiza Jr. signed for the Philippines.
“Deepening our cooperation in nuclear energy, science, and technology has the potential to make a significant contribution to our shared
clean energy goals, agricultural development, availability of clean water, medical treatments, and more. Our nuclear cooperation rests on a strong nonproliferation regime and the Philippines’ steadfast commitment to nonproliferation,” the statement read.
President Rodrigo Duterte also recently issued Executive Order (EO) 164 to tap nuclear power as an energy source along with other alternative energy resources, saying this is needed to achieve the country’s growth targets.
The EO mandates the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) to collate all audits and recommendations, conduct further studies and assessments and if necessary, and make recommendations on the use and viability of the BNPP and the establishment of other facilities for the utilization of nuclear energy.
The Department of Energy, meanwhile, is proposing to the House of Representatives a measure creating the Commission on Nuclear Energy.