Transparency sought as DOE seeks P97M budget for nuke program

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    SEN. Sherwin Gatchalian pressed the Department of Energy to be more transparent about the country’s nuclear power agenda as it sought to double the budget for preparations and studies even without the go-signal from President Duterte.

    Gatchalian, who presided over the finance committee’s hearing on the Department of Energy’s proposed P2.3-billion budget for 2020 yesterday, zeroed in on the P97 million allocation for the nuclear program, double the current year’s P48-million budget.

    Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said that so far, Duterte had given “no explicit approval that we go nuclear.”

    This despite the DOE having already submitted the proposed “national nuclear policy.”

    But he justified the allocation by saying the DOE was “just looking at all the alternative sources of energy considering the vulnerability of the country.”

    “We are just preparing the country for, you know, if we can put nuclear in our energy mix,” Cusi said.

    “We are going to all the motion preparing and be able to answer on the issue of nuclear for all possible questions whether we should go or we should not go,” he added.

    This prompted Gatchalian to ask for details on how the current year’s P48 million budget was spent on such preparations.

    “Right now, we don’t have a signal from the President on whether to go or not to go. And yet, we are undertaking more studies,” Gatchalian said.

    “Nuclear power is a very controversial source of power. To be honest about it, we cannot cloak it in secrecy or else, the more the public will doubt us,” he added.

    During Duterte’s visit to Moscow last week, the DOE and Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corp., entered into a pact regarding the “intention to jointly explore the prospects of cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants” in the Philippines.

    The only nuclear power plant in the country, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, was built during the Marcos dictatorship but never operated because of corruption and safety issues, as well as the fear that followed the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.