Drop support to revive Bataan nuclear plant

By JADE LOPEZ, Reporter

DEBT watchdog Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) is appealing to Cebuano legislators to withdraw their support to House Bill (HB) 4631 or the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Re-commissioning Act of 2008 that seeks to activate the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

“The BNPP is a glaring representation of the country’s fraudulent, wasteful, and useless debts and to make it operational would be to gamble away the people’s lives on a lost deal. We urge our Cebuano legislators who signed the bill to a public dialogue,” said Lito Vasquez, secretary general of FDC-Cebu in an interview Wednesday.

Vasquez made the appeal in time for the launching of a national campaign by FDC and the Network Opposed to Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (NOtoBNPP!) called “People are Watching You” to signal the start of the people’s vigilant watch over their respective legislators, urging them to withdraw their signatures and support for HB 4631.

Vasquez emphasized the proposed rehabilitation of the nuclear power plant in Bataan is a national concern meriting nationwide vigilance.
He said coalition members in Cebu challenged the six Cebuano legislators who are signatory to the BNPP bill to face their constituents in a public dialogue and answer questions pertaining to their endorsement of the bill.

Cebuano legislators who signed HB 4631 include Raul V. Del Mar (1st District, Cebu City), Eduardo R. Gullas (1st District, Cebu), Pablo P. Garcia (2nd District, Cebu), Benhur Salimbangon (4th District, Cebu), Ramon Durano VI (5th District, Cebu), and Nerissa Corazon Soon-Ruiz (6th District, Cebu).

The controversial BNPP bill, authored by Rep. Mark Cojuangco (5th District, Pangasinan), is set to be deliberated for Congress approval, amidst an ever-growing public opposition stemming from safety, ecological, economic and financial concerns related to the restoration of the nuclear plant, Vasquez said in a press statement.

“Apart from its author, there are 184 legislators in the lower house endorsing the passage of the BNPP bill. These legislators should be enlightened as to the repercussions of their position vis-à-vis the commissioning of the BNPP,” read FDC secretary general Milo Tanchuling’s statement in the FDC website.

According to FDC, the Philippine government, as of 2007, already paid a total amount of P70 billion in debt payments for the construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which was initiated in 1976.

The debt watchdog argues, however, that while the government’s accounting books have already cleared the original BNPP debt, the methods of repayment have yet to be examined. The refinancing schemes resorted to by government for the payment of this debt have also yet to be identified.

The group further warned that the BNPP re-commissioning and commercial operation will “push upward the electricity rates in the country, already the second highest in Asia.”

Proposals in raising government equity include a surcharge of PhP 0.10/kWh of the total electric power generated or through international or domestic loan agreements, the group said.

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