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Filipinos split over nuclear energy

Japanese quake damage prompts second thoughts on possible program

Filipinos split over nuclear energy
Activists show opposition to the revival of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant during a protest (photo courtesy of Greenpeace) reporters, Manila

March 16, 2011

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Filipinos are divided over plans by some government officials to push through with a Philippine nuclear power program following the quake last week in Japan. In the northern province of Bataan, Catholic Church officials and residents said they are against the proposed program. Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Diocese of Balanga said the government should instead divert its focus toward exploiting sources of renewable energy. "We should exert efforts in (developing) our natural resources because we have this potential… wind, solar and geothermal," said Bishop Santos. He said plans to revive the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) must be totally abandoned. In the nearby province of Pangasinan, the provincial board is pushing through with a resolution to have a nuclear power plant built along the province's coastline. Alfonso Bince Jr., a provincial board member, said the local government is not changing its mind despite the nuclear-plant problems in Japan. "Let us not have a moratorium on studies (of the nuclear power plant)," he said. Representative Mark Cojuangco of the province's fifth district earlier filed a bill in Congress proposing the re-commissioning of the BNPP. The non-government group Freedom from Debt Coalition, however, called on President Benigno Aquino III to forget about tapping nuclear power as a solution to the country’s power generation problem. Ric Reyes, president of FDC, said that with Japan’s experience, "all attempts at reviving the BNPP must be quashed." Bishop Santos agreed, saying that the option to operate a nuclear plant would just put the country in danger. "How ready are we if some calamities will strike on us?" the bishop said. He said what is happening in Japan’s nuclear plant is a "wake-up call and a warning" for Filipinos. He said the BNPP has an unacceptably high risk of serious damage from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Representative Angelo Palmones of the Science party in Congress, however, said nuclear power is still an alternative energy source. "Nuclear energy is environment friendly, and thus helps cut on greenhouse gas emission. We can no longer separate the issue of climate change from our energy options," said Palmones. Related reports Earthquake prompts regional detente Bishops to check historic Manila churches PM13658
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