Philippines: Church protests over plans to reinstate unsafe nuclear plant

 Church leaders have branded as immoral, plans by the government to reopen the Bataan nuclear power plant in the north of the country, that had previously been condemned as unsafe.

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila recently joined a protest in this city just east of the capital.
In a scathing response to the plans, he told UCA News that the government was planning to saddle the country with "immoral debts" that had nothing to do with real development. He said this would "impose misery and should not be paid by the people."

At the colorful protest, more than 100 people flew kites with messages condemning the project, including the bishop's own green, blue and maroon kite bearing the slogan "Choose life over debts."
Bataan nuclear power plant was built under Ferdinand Marcos' regime, but was never used after experts deemed it unsafe due to its location near a dormant volcano.

A new proposal to rehabilitate the plant would add at least US$1 billion to the national debt.
Besides the cost, there are still safety concerns over the plant which, on top of its poor location, is an old design with inadequate emergency cooling systems for its reactors, according to the findings of an investigative commission.

Issues of disposal of nuclear waste have not been addressed either, the commission found.

The leading protest group, the Faith-based Congress against Immoral Debts (FCAID), says construction of the plant between 1976 and 1984 cost US$2.3 billion compared with original estimates of $600 million.

The Philippines reportedly raised US$1 billion in loans for the construction. President Corazon Aquino ordered the closure of the plant in 1986 but the debt was only finally repaid in 2007.

Last July, however, Congressman Mark Cojuangco called for an "immediate re-commissioning and funding" of the Bataan plant, citing the country's need for cheaper energy. Cojuangco, with the support of 24 Metro Manila politicians, tabled a bill that would allow the project.

The bill has passed a first reading in the House of Representative but will need a majority of the 238 House members at a third reading before going to the Senate for a similar process after which it would become law.

The bill says that rehabilitation of the plant will cost another US$1 billion, with funding coming from foreign loans and a small levy on electricity prices.

Cojuangco claims that would be cheaper than building a new coal-fired power plant and Bataan could be operational within three years.

Redemptorist Father Juventud Moraleda, FCAID central committee member, said taxpayers should not be forced to pay for the debt because they did not benefit from them.

"The government officials who contracted these debts should pay them," he told UCA News.
FCAID is a coalition of Catholic and other faith-based groups, founded in 2007 during a "faith-based unity congress" of Catholics and Evangelicals.

The kite-flying protest was also designed to raise a fighting fund to continue the protest against the plant, with a donation of 2,000 to 3,000 pesos (US$42-$62) per kite.

The bishop and FCAID protesters were joined in the campaign by Lingkod Tao-Kalikasan (service to people and nature), a Church-based NGO for protection of the environment, and Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The Philippines government should promote renewable energy instead of nuclear power which is "costly for the environment and the economy," said Francis de la Cruz, Greenpeace media coordinator.

Source: UCAN

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