SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga—The Regional Development Council in Central Luzon is now open to recommissioning the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong, Bataan.
Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, newly appointed chairman of the RDC in Region III, on Tuesday said opening the nuclear plant “will soon open much needed foreign investment for the country.”
Pamintuan said the 621-megawatt capacity plant “will remain a stumbling block to our progress and development if it will remain mothballed, because our electric rate is one of the highest in Asia, if not in the world.”
“During the administration of former president, now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as overseer of major investments in Subic and Clark, I had a hard time persuading Hanjin and Texas Instruments to invest in the country because of the high cost of our electricity,” said Pamintuan.
Until there is an assurance that foreign investors will be given tax incentives and direct transmission line to their companies to keep them free of brownouts, “they won’t agree to do business in the country,” the mayor added.
Despite proposing the opening of the $2.5-billion plant, which sits on 369 hectares of protected land at Napot Point in Morong, Pamintuan stressed that the safety of Filipinos from any nuclear or environmental disaster “must be assured.”
The regional council chairman said even President Rodrigo Duterte was open to the idea of reviving the BNPP, “but the safety of the people must come first before anything else.”
Instead of a nuclear plant, the structure, which was finished in 1984, “is now a tourist spot with P27 million in annual maintenance expenses,” Pamintuan said.
He said other countries are building more nuclear plants “despite their bad experiences” with nuclear energy, while the Philippines “has no experience at all and has one available [nuclear plant] but refuses to operate it.”
“We have to be practical, so let us recommission the plant so that our electricity rate, especially for those in Central Luzon, will be reduced,” the mayor said.
Critics of the power plant and the residents of Bataan peninsula and nearby areas are worried about reopening the BNPP since the plant is 40 years old—it was constructed in 1976—and is near a major geological fault line and close to the dormant Mt. Pinatubo, which erupted in 1996.
But an inspection led by several senators last year saw the BNPP’s foundations remaining “solid and safe” until now, even its nuclear reactor that has never been fueled.
Last month, experts with the Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said more studies needed to be carried out before the BNPP can be cleared for revival.
The plant was constructed by American firm Westinghouse on order of then-President Ferdinand Marcos, who cited the world oil crisis of 1973 that seriously affected the Philippine economy.
Work on the plant was completed in 1984 but it was never launched, as it was caught up in the political turmoil that led to Marcos’ exile in 1986 following the Edsa People Power Revolution. Succeeding governments have not activated the BNPP over several concerns, leaving the country with debt payments the government finished paying off in April 2007.