Asia - pacific

Duterte plays down use of nuclear energy in Philippines

Philippines president reported as saying country not yet in a situation where it would go nuclear

Ekip   | 02.11.2016
Duterte plays down use of nuclear energy in Philippines Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Zamboanga

By Hader Glang

ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte has played down proposals to use nuclear energy to bring down power costs in the country, saying such a move was not needed during his presidency.

Duterte's comment to reporters in the southern city of Davao came after Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said nuclear power is an option for the country to meet growing power needs, with annual electricity demand expected to rise by an average 5 percent until 2030.

According to local media, energy officials and senators visited the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant last September to weigh if the 40-year-old building could still be used, or the government needed to build a new plant.

On Wednesday, the Inquirer reported Duterte as saying did not yet need to go nuclear.

"Maybe someday, [but] not during my presidency," Duterte added, stressing the use of nuclear power must be studied carefully to avoid unfortunate accidents that may harm the public.

"I guess now is not a good time because we have to come up with safeguards. Really, really tight safeguards to assure that there will be no disasters if there is a nuclear leak or explosion somewhere in the nuclear reactors that we will build in,” he said.

“It has to be studied carefully by Congress and by the Filipino people. For after all, if there is a nuclear leak, we would all be affected and it’s our country, remember that."

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was completed 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Manila in 1974, but never fueled after being ordered by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1976 in response to rising energy prices.

Meanwhile, Duterte has belittled the decision of the US State Department to call off the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police, saying the Philippines could just turn to Russia for firearms.

“Is that all they can say to threaten me? That they will not sell firearms to us? We have many air rifles here,” Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted the President as quipping to reporters in an interview during his visit to the tombs of his parents in Davao City on Tuesday night.

The US government opted to void the arms deal in the wake of Mr. Duterte’s acerbic remarks against America, and amid his vicious drug war which has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 people.

American Sen. Ben Cardin, a top Democrat in foreign relations committee in the US Senate, had said he would block the transaction in the wake of alleged human rights abuses spawned by the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs

The President, who won on a single platform of curbing criminality, said his administration may seek out Russia’s help to arm the PNP personnel.

He said a Russian diplomat had previously told him to “come to Russia. We all have here anything you need.”

In a news briefing at Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella reiterated that the President himself had already invited the United Nations to come to the country and look into the cases of extrajudicial killings.

“However, the invitation itself does not preclude a careful process on procedures to be agreed upon between the Philippine government and the UN,” Abella said.

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