By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said President Duterte intends to first study a nuclear energy agreement the country entered into with a Russian company during his state visit to Moscow last week.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement following the 42nd Cabinet Meeting in Malacañang Friday evening.
In a statement, Panelo said that Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi discussed the nuclear energy agreement with a Russian company. However, he said that the Memorandum of Intent signed during the visit was only a framework for discussion.
“The DOE reiterated that the Memorandum of Intent signed last October 4, 2019 was a framework for discussion and not for a particular construction of a small modular reactor (SMR). The President wanted to study first the proposal,” he said.
The Memorandum of Intent to jointly explore the prospects of cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants in the Philippines was one of the 10 business deals the Philippines signed with Russia on October 4.
Upon his arrival in the country last October 6, Duterte promised to take up the proposal with his Cabinet since the setting up of nuclear power plants was not allowed under the Constitution.
“The Constitution does not — would not like it. It is prohibited. That is why I have to talk to the Cabinet,” the President said.
“The hard-line would come after I shall have consulted with everybody concerned including people of the industry affected,” he added.
Philippine Ambasador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said that the Philippines has been looking at Russia to invest in the Philippines’ energy sector.
“We’re looking at Russia investing in our energy sector setting up plants for natural gas, different steps to liquefy for our natural gas. And we’re looking also, I understand — it’s still very early — ang nuclear power na merong mga konting talks (there has been few talks about nuclear power), trying to understand what Russia can do and what we are ready to absorb,” he said.
However, he said it was too early to talk about nuclear energy since the Philippines has no policy for it.
“Malayo pa kasi (It’s not going to happen yet because) we need to have a nuclear policy, eh. I think it’s best to start discussing the — the value of nuclear energy for power generation when we have either a law or an executive order,” Sorreta said.
“I think that can be done through a law or an executive order, that lays out the policy. Pero (But) the potential of a nuclear energy is fantastic because it’s a clean energy,” he added.
During his visit to Moscow, Duterte invited Rosneft Oil Co. to invest in the Philippines and assured them that their investments will be safe in the country because corruption is not tolerated in his government.
“The President invited Rosneft, the leader in the Russian oil sector, to invest in the Philippines, particularly with regard to oil and gas development, and assured its officials that their investments are safe in the Philippines and that he would not tolerate corruption in the bureaucracy,” Panelo said.
“We wish to add that the Chief Executive underscored that any agreement that will be executed or performed for such purpose shall undergo the proper domestic processes and comply with applicable laws and pertinent rules and regulations so as not to leave any room for corruption or irregularity,” he added.
Earlier, Malacañang expressed concern after the Pentagon warned that China’s outposts in the Spratly Islands may soon be powered with a “nuclear element.” The Palace earlier argued that the Southeast Asian region is a nuclear-free zone.
During the 32nd ASEAN Summit in Singapore in April last year, the Southeast Asian leaders, in one of their three outcome documents, stated that the region should be free from nuclear weapons or any weapon of mass destruction.