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Proponents, critics clash at House deliberation on BNPP revival

MANILA, Philippine - Supporters and critics of the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) on Monday clashed during the House deliberation for the proposed US$1-billion funding for the plant’s rehabilitation. Radio dzBB reported that at the deliberations headed by House appropriations committee chairman and Rep. Junie Cua, proponents of House Bill 4631 reiterated that reopening the power plant would pose no danger to local residents in the area. The bill, otherwise known as the “Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Commissioning Act of 2008," seeks to rehabilitate in at least five years the nuclear plant for US$1 billion. The proposal, authored by Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco and Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey" Arroyo, was created supposedly to free the Philippines from its dependence on coal-powered plant, ultimately contributing to climate change prevention. During Monday’s hearing, proponents of the BNPP revival presented Dr. Carlo Arcilla of the National Institute of Geological Sciences to prove that fears that the nuclear plant is unstable because it sits at the foot of a volcano were unfounded. Arcilla said that he has yet to see evidence that would show the BNPP lies on top of an active fault. He also said that the 1990 earthquake in Nueva Ecija and the 1991 Mount Pinatubo explosion have not caused damage to the nuclear plant. Cojuangco said the revival of the BNPP was timely because it could help prepare the country for the National Power Corporation’s earlier projection that a power scarcity is in sight for the Philippines in 2012. Additional charges After the proponents’ assurance, a barrage of opposition was hurled by critics of the BNPP reopening including scientists, fellow House lawmakers, and other environmental groups. Progressive scientists from the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Agham) said that the P1-billion fund needed for the rehabilitation would ultimately be shouldered by taxpayers. According to Agham’s computation, to come up with the amount, the government would impose a surcharge of 10-centavo per kilowatt-hour worth of “nuclear tax" to electric consumers for the next five years. Gabriela Rep. Lisa Maza said she doubted whether the BNPP could help the country amid a global economic recess much less alleviate the global warming problem. “A dead, dangerous, and deceptive measure must be buried. Recommissioning the BNPP which is projected to cost US$1 billion hardly addresses the problems especially at the height of mass lay off and financial crisis," she said in a text message to reporters. Maza was not the first House lawmaker to express opposition to the renewed interest to the rehabilitation of the nuclear power plant. Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III last week said findings by the Puno Commission in 1979 had already proven that the BNPP had an old design that was “plagued with unresolved safety issues." Instead, Tañada urged the government to channel the money to be used for the rehabilitation to develop a program that would harness renewable energy. Tañada is one of the authors of the Renewable Energy Act. Symbol of poverty, corruption For its part, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) also expressed its opposition to the revival during Monday’s hearing, saying that the BNPP was a “symbol of poverty of corruption." The move was only being pushed for the “self-serving" interest of the proponents, according to the group. Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment last week had already warned that reviving the nuclear plant would only serve as a “milking cow" for “corrupt" public officials. Another environment group, the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance, said that contrary to the government’s justification that the revival could address global warming, operations of the nuclear plant would in fact involve carbon emission. Scientists and environmentalists were not the only people opposed to the revival of the nuclear plant as Manila auxiliary bishop Broderick Pabillo had already expressed his objections, citing potential dangers that such move might trigger. Pabillo said that the nuclear power plant may not only compromise the safety of local residents due to health hazards but also to the fact that the power plant sits at the foot of a potentially active volcano. The construction of BNPP started in 1976 during the Marcos martial law era, but it was shelved after three years because an independent inquiry discovered enormous defects in the plant. In 1986, chances of the power plant’s construction being fully completed grew dimmer as then President Corazon Aquino declared the site unsafe. The government moved for the plant’s closure especially after the Chernobyl disaster in Russia. - GMANews.TV