After Cha-Cha Railroading,
Congress Prepares to Rush BNPP Bill
“Another runaway train in Congress” is how the Network Opposed to the
Bataan Nuclear Plant Revival (No to BNPP Revival!) described the looming
plenary discussion of the bill to reopen the mothballed nuclear plant.
“After last night's charter change debacle and amid allegations of a 20M
payoff to approve Palace-backed pending bills, Congress is now set to
commit another mistake as it prepares to discuss House Bill 6300. The
people will not forgive the representatives that will pass this folly of a
bill”, said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, spokesperson of No to BNPP Revival!
Despite the voluminous studies and strong and widespread people's
opposition, Congress has now tabled to take up in plenary session House
Bill 6300, the consolidated version of the bill sponsored by Pampanga
Representative and House Energy Committee chair Juan Miguel Arroyo. HB
6300 is principally authored by Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco,
the main proponent of the bill.
HB 6300 mandates the immediate rehabilitation, commissioning and
commercial pperation of the Bataan nuclear power plant. HB6300 also
includes a so-called validation study costing an additional 100 million
pesos while the rest of the bill is to start the immediate operation of
the nuclear plant.
The network chides this provision in the bill. Dr. Tapang asks Congress
why are they funding a study whose findings are evident even before it
starts. He said that there are already three major studies about this
matter done in the past, including the Senate findings in 1986.
"The government should be clear with its priorities. If they are serious
in conducting studies to develop the energy sector, they should put the
funds on researches in unleashing the renewable energy potential of the
country, like geothermal, power in which the country has a high potential
ranking 2nd in the world and 1st on per capita basis. At least such a
study would have groundbreaking results for the future of cheaper and
safer energy sources in the country”, said Dr. Tapang.
The move of the Congressmen to pass the amended bill instead of totally
junking it is reflective of the energy policies of the Arroyo
administration. They only want the money involved and have no true
intentions of developing the energy sector. The people have a clear stand
on the issue; let this serve as a warning to the politicians in Congress
who allow themselves to be under the influence of prominent figures
pushing for this bill that the people will not forget when the ballot
starts to speak in 2010,” ends Tapang.
No to BNPP Revival! asserts that the BNPP is not essential in addressing
the looming "energy crisis" in 2012. The country has vast indigenous
energy resources that we can tap which are more safe and reliable than
nuclear power and neither would the operation of the BNPP assure cheap
electricity for the people and energy independence for the country.
The network also said that BNPP is defective, almost obsolete and is not
safe to operate. There are numerous and significant arguments being raised
with regards to geologic hazards, infrastructure integrity, and nuclear
waste storage and disposal. Its operation will pose great risks to the
health and lives of the people and the environment.
In addition, the fund for the BNPP, to be paid by additional people's
taxes and foreign loans, would be a source of corruption and kickbacks for
the corrupt officials and cronies of the current administration. Until
now, no one has been held accountable for the BNPP corruption scandals of
the Marcos administration.
The Network Opposed to Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Revival (NO to BNPP
Revival!) is a broad alliance of individuals, institutions and
organizations from different sectors that was launched in February 11,
2009 with NO to BNPP Revival as the main basis for unity. NO to BNPP
Revival! will be holding a Fund-raising Lugawan on June 5, 2009, Friday,
4-7PM in Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman, Quezon City. ###
Thursday, June 25, 2009
By Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.
Science for the people: On
the environment (1)
Last week’s column on counting crowds elicited various reactions that
ranged from those who appreciate the article to those who question why
scientists would participate in a very “political” issue such as
estimating the numbers in a rally. We beg to disagree with the latter as
this kind of thinking relegates those working in science and engineering
to ivory towers.
Science does not exist separate from society and as such scientific
workers also interact outside their laboratories like anybody else.
Current political issues are part of our issues too, and we, as scientists
and engineers, can participate in addressing these questions using the
expertise and knowledge that we have.
In which areas can scientists and engineers directly participate? There
are a plethora of issues that beset the Filipino people but we can
categorize five major concerns where scientists can contribute: the
environment, food security and self-sufficiency, public utilities,
scientific and mass culture and in advocating national industrialization.
We discuss the issues concerning the environment today.
Most biodiverse but poorest
The Philippines is known to be one of the most biodiverse environments in
the world and yet, ironically, it is among the poorest economies. At the
beginning of the Spanish occupation, the Philippines’ original forest
cover was 27 million hectares, representing 90 percent of our total land
area. As of 2003, this had shrunk to only 7.17 million hectares, or about
24 percent of our country’s land area. Rapid forest denudation resulted in
floods in low-lying plains and soil erosion of a billion cubic meters of
soil per year results in 63 percent of our arable land being severely
Coastal systems are severely affected with the conversion of mangrove
forests for culture ponds for prawn and crabs, while coral reefs are being
destroyed mainly by soil erosion and blast and cyanide fishing-for-export.
Solid waste disposal in urban centers reach dangerous levels where as much
as 2.7 thousand tons of garbage are produced by Metro Manila alone. Open
dumps and waterways serve as disposal grounds where they pose dangers to
the nearby residents in the form of health problems or calamitous death
like what happened in Payatas in 1999.
Air pollution from industries and motor vehicles generate around a 1,000
tons of noxious gases, 40 percent of which is sulfur dioxide and the rest
nitrogen oxides and other gases. Industrial pollution is aggravated by the
fact that only a third of firms comply with air and water waste
regulations. The rest just dumps wastes directly into rivers and
Large-scale corporate mining activities literally carve out whole
mountains of soil and rock to obtain metal ores for foreign export. While
these foreign mining companies leave nothing but their mine tailings for
the surrounding communities to contend with, they would bring with them
the raw metal ores and 100 percent of their profits.
No area in the country is spared from environmental problems. Peasants,
fisher folk, indigenous people and even urban poor communities are
experiencing the brunt of environmental destruction brought about by
industrial pollution, massive conversion of prime agricultural lands,
corporate mining activities and others.
This environmental debacle has its roots in the history of the country.
Over centuries of colonial subjugation, the entire Philippine archipelago
was eventually used mainly as a source of raw materials and human labor by
Spain. The United States later left us with an economic system that
persists until today characterized by foreign-dependence on imports and
export-oriented production that commercialized our natural resources. This
mode of production has heightened conflicts on the use, access and control
of the environment.
Landlords with large holdings have maintained the export-oriented nature
of agricultural production using backward technologies. Foreign
multinationals and their local partners own and control the large
industrial companies that are major contributors to environmental
destruction. Worse, past and present governments have allowed this
environmental destruction to worsen by letting these firms enter our
country in the guise of foreign investments. The policies of
liberalization, deregulation and privatization that sell out our national
patrimony are the same policies being proposed in the Charter change
provisions in Congress.
Our environment is under siege and our people is at its mercy. Climate
change aggravates this situation as weather patterns change and the
vulnerable sectors such as the poor are left to fend off its effects
without any support from the State.
This problem is a major source of concern as well as an opportunity for
concrete action for the science and technology community. We have to look
at ways for science and technology to be harnessed to maximize the
environment’s use for the people while minimizing damage. We should be
able explain to the people the extent and effects of the environmental
destruction in our country and unite with them in defense of our
environment and natural resources.
Dr. Giovanni Tapang is the chairperson of AGHAM.