On 28 February 2022, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 164 (“E.O. 164”) which begins the process of including nuclear power in the energy mix of the Philippines. The Executive Order adopts the national position for a Nuclear Energy Program (NEP), taking into account several economic, political, social, and environmental objectives, including, among others, the use of nuclear power as a “viable component to bridge the gap between rising energy demands and supply.”
The issuance of E.O. 164 follows almost two years after the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) conducted its public perception study on nuclear power which showed that almost 79% of Filipinos expressed approval of the possible use or rehabilitation of existing nuclear power plants and that around 65% approved the building of new nuclear power plants.
Under E.O. 164, the NEP-IAC was directed to perform additional functions to carry out the NEP which includes the review of the present comprehensive legal and regulatory framework in support of the Program, thereby calling for the urgent prioritization of bills relating to the establishment of an independent regulatory body, the ratification of pending treaties and conventions, as well as the amendment of existing laws, rules and regulations relevant thereto. The NEP-IAC was likewise directed to evaluate and expedite the implementation of the National Strategy Roadmap and Timeline of the Nuclear Energy Program and to perform the functions of a Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization.
The NEP-IAC was also tasked under E.O. 164 to collate all audits and recommendations, to conduct further studies, and to make recommendations as to the use and viability of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and the establishment of other nuclear power installations. The BNPP is a $2.2 billion nuclear power plant located in Morong, Bataan which was completed in 1985 but later mothballed due to safety concerns.
The Department of Energy was likewise tapped to coordinate with and assist the NEP-IAC and to develop and implement the NEP as part of the Philippine Energy Plan. The funding for the implementation of E.O. 164. shall preliminarily be charged against available appropriations of the DOE and of member agencies of the NEP-IAC, subject to annual budget proposals for inclusion in the national budget for funding in succeeding years.
DOE Undersecretary and NEP-IAC Chairman Gerardo Erguiza said in an online briefing that it is imperative for the Philippines to look into other sources of energy aside from those drawn from fossil fuels such as oil. According to Erguiza, one alternative source to which the country may turn to is nuclear power which is a, “viable and doable option which can supply baseload power to the grid.”