Mindanao leaders asked to support nuke plant revival bill

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 February) — Mindanao leaders and environment groups have been asked to support a bill reviving the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant as a solution to the power crisis projected by the business sector to hit Mindanao by 2014.

Former Pangasinan congressman Mark Cojuangco told a business reporters’ forum Tuesday that the revival of the 621-megawatt nuclear power plant will provide the most “environment-friendly” solution to the impending power crisis.

Cojuangco, who failed to have the bill “Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Commissioning Act of 2008” passed during his term in Congress, is now counting on his wife, Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, to fight for the plant’s revival even as he is also campaigning for it in other venues.

“We have the highest power rate in Asia and here’s a power plant sitting in our midst, a power plant that is already paid for, and we’re not doing anything about it. I find that stupid,” the former lawmaker said.

In another forum at the City Council, Cojuangco tried to convince environment groups that coal-fired power plants release more radioactive particles in the atmosphere than nuclear power plants.

“You could never be called a real environmentalist unless you opt for a nuclear power plant, which is the most environment-friendly in all power sources,” he said.

“With nuclear power, Noynoy is given a way out of the energy crisis,” he added.

Cojuangco said the P2.12-billion facility, which has identical plants in Brazil and South Korea, has only been lying idle in the last 28 years but it’s “as good as new.”

He said if the Philippines had only pushed through with the plant’s operation, given the performance of similar nuclear plants in Brazil and South Korea, the country could have been generating power at half the price of the conventional power sources.

Despite the support of 180 members of the House of Representatives, Cojuangco’s bill was never passed into law until his term in Congress ended.

Cojuangco’s wife has filed a new version of her husband’s bill by incorporating some points raised in the long debates during the 14th Congress.

House Bill No. 1291, which calls for a review of the decommissioned BNPP, will culminate in either the revival or total closure of the power plant, Cojuangco said.

Strong protests from residents, Church groups and environment activists led former President Corazon Aquino to close down the plant, which was built during the Marcos administration.

Mindanao business and energy sector in recent years had projected a power shortage in Mindanao by 2014 based on the demand growth projection and the absence of new plants being built in the island. But environment activists questioned this projection, saying there has been “no honest-to-goodness inventory of Mindanao’s existing power capacity yet” and that the reported demand projection was made by interest groups.

Cojuangco said close to 200 congressmen already volunteered to co-author the bill filed by his wife.

“During my term, I used to have a hard time convincing 180 members of the House of Representatives who finally agreed to co author the bill, but now, they throw their support entirely on their own,” he noted.

He also said President Aquino changed his mind about nuclear power after talking to him a month or two before elections.

“He is no longer anti-nuke,” he said.

”I understand he used to have reservations about BNPP because it was under his mother that it was ordered closed,” Cojuangco said, adding, “His mother had legitimate reason (for the closure) then, because Chernobyl and the Three Island accident just happened.”

“But look at the performance of its sister plants in South Korea and Brazil. The world has been using the technology for quite a while, and the nuclear industry had nothing but an impeccable track record to show: zero death, zero injuries, zero damage to properties, it’s perhaps the safest industry invented by humankind,” he said. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)