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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Nuke power project moving forward–Marcos

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday (Manila time) said the government is working on all legal requirements for the planned nuclear energy investment in the Philippines by American firm Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC).

The President met with USNC executives led by CEO Francesco Venmeri who were updated by top government officials on the progress being made in completing the project’s regulatory framework.

“You’re done already in the House. Okay. So, that the elements that need to be there, the provisions that need to be (included) we can do in the Senate and then there’s the bicam down the road. So, that would be the process…from the government side,” Marcos said.

The meeting follows initial discussions between the President and USNC at Blair House in May last year, culminating in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November 2023. USNC also participated in the US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission in March 2024.

The agreement involves a pre-feasibility study to introduce Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) systems to Meralco and explore their potential in the Philippines. Based on the findings, Meralco may pursue a detailed feasibility study for MMR energy system adoption and deployment.

The Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, or the 123 Agreement, was signed by the Philippine and US governments on Nov. 16, 2023, in San Francisco, California.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said the follow-up meeting is a step forward in realizing of the President’s dream for adequate, reliable, and cheaper electricity for all Filipinos.

Romualdez, who was with the President during the meeting, noted that according to Department of Energy data, only 96 percent of houses nationwide have been electrified as of 2020.

“As an archipelago, our country’s physical landscape presents daunting challenges in connecting remote communities to the national grid,” Romualdez said.

“And while many island communities are served by fuel-fired power generation facilities, they oftentimes endure rotational brownouts and suffer from expensive power rates. The MMR promises to offer a viable solution to these challenges,” he added.

Among others, he noted that MMRs are significantly smaller than traditional reactors, requiring less land for construction, making them ideal for deployment in remote areas or supplementing existing power grids in urban locations.

Due to their simplified design and factory fabrication MMRs are expected to have lower capital costs compared to traditional nuclear reactors. MMRs can be deployed in a modular fashion, adding capacity as needed, allowing for a more flexible approach to energy needs.

“Recognizing the vital importance of energy security to our aspirations for sustained growth and development and a better life for our people, the House of Representatives stands solidly behind President Marcos, Jr.’s endeavors to ensure ample, dependable, and reasonably-priced electricity,” Romualdez said.

He noted that on November 22, 2023, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 9293, or the “Philippine National Nuclear Energy Safety Act.” Last March 4, the House also approved HB 9876 or the “Philippine Nuclear Liability Act.”

The twin measures have been transmitted to the Senate for its action.

The Meralco-USNC cooperative agreement will facilitate a comprehensive pre-feasibility study to assess the potential for deploying MMRs in the Philippines.

The parallel landmark 123 Nuclear Agreement between the US and the Philippines, also signed in November last year, provides the legal basis for civil nuclear energy cooperation and allows the export of nuclear fuel, reactors, equipment, and special nuclear material from the US to the Philippines.

Meanwhile, The United States and Japan on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) vowed to continue their robust commitment to fostering the economic prosperity of the Philippines.

In a joint statement, the three leaders announced plans for a Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines, along with over $1 billion in US private sector investments to bolster the Philippines’ innovation economy and facilitate its transition towards clean energy.

The initiative aims not only to enhance supply chain resilience but also to reinforce the enduring US commitment to mobilizing private sector investment in the Philippines.

President Ferdinand Marcos commended Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) and private sector investment, surpassing the pledge of JPY 600 billion outlined in the 2023 Japan-Philippines Joint Statement.

The leaders emphasized their determination to foster sustainable economic growth and resilience within their respective countries and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Their collaborative economic projects are geared towards advancing shared objectives, including promoting broad-based and sustainable economic growth, and investing in resilient, reliable, and diversified supply chains.

Furthermore, they expressed support for the continued progress of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), aiming to enhance resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness across economies in the region.

The joint statement underscored the importance of the first trilateral commerce and industry ministers’ meeting held earlier, affirming the commitment to facilitating ongoing and future economic cooperation projects towards the Philippines’ attainment of upper-middle-income country status and beyond.

In addition, the leaders voiced their opposition to economic coercion and stressed the significance of a rules-based economic order, highlighting the need for close coordination in addressing economic coercion.

The historic trilateral meeting between President Marcos, President Biden, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio reaffirmed their unwavering dedication to economic and maritime cooperation amidst challenges to the international rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.

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