LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — The operation of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and the putting up of a similar one in any part of the country is next to impossible considering the mindset of the people.
This in essence is the opinion of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla in reaction to the report that former Pangasinan Fifth District Congressman Mark Cojuangco who is eyeing to run for governor of the province has not abandoned his earlier call for the operation of the BNPP.
There was also a report that in order to prove that a nuclear plant is safe, he is willing to let one nuclear plant built next to his house in Sison, Pangasinan.
Interviewed by newsmen here after gracing the general assembly of member-consumers of the Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (Cenpelco) on Saturday, Petilla revealed that to put up just a coal-fired power plant, one needs more than 100 signatures, and much more if it is a nuclear power plant.
He said the Department of Energy he is heading is “energy-neutral”, which means that it adopts whatever source of energy that is acceptable to the people but which is also cheap and is good for the country, and will get no subsidy from the government.
“If it ( power source) is good for the country and is cheap, we will go for it,” he intoned.
But when it comes to nuclear plant, it is not only DOE that will sign but also the DENR, the governor, the mayor and even the barangay captain where the project will be built. If the area is populated by indigenous people, one have to get their ascent individually, he added.
Petilla said the other question on the issue of nuclear plant is, the Philippines it seems is not ready for this new technology because in this country, before one can drive a post to the ground and build that project, a case has already been filed against it before the Supreme Court.
But since a few people are persistent on having a nuclear plant, they should ask the House and the Senate to call a referendum on this issue so that in case the “yes” vote will prevail, nobody will question this anymore before the Supreme Court.
At the same time, he maintains his previous computation that in case the BNPP will be allowed and it will be operated by Meralco, the consumer can only get a saving of 30 centavos per kilowatt.
He said if the consumer wants to get as much as P1.50 per kilowatt, then there should be more nuclear power plant that would be built throughout the country.
Mr. Cojuangco said he will prove in the debate that the Filipinos will get substantial savings if the country will put up nuclear plants.
“So that there will be no trouble anymore and that the Supreme Court will not intervene, somebody should call call Congress to put the issue to a referendum,” Petilla dared.
He admitted though that nuclear plant is Cojuangco’s passion but admitted that when they saw each other, he (Cojuangco) somewhat softened by saying he may probably go to that direction (seek referendum on the issue).
But the energy secretary said that as to the question if a nuclear plant is safe, he pointed out : “It is really relatively safe, but just one accident that may happen, the damage that it may cause will be difficult to recoup.
He also asked that nuclear experts be allowed to handle the nuclear plant as no body perhaps in this country is capable of doing it today.
He also stress the need to put up a nuclear regulatory body that will regulate the operation of the plant, insinuating that the Philippines is not yet ready to adopt nuclear technology at this stage.