MORONG FOLK ON NUKE PLANT ‘Our fight is not yet over’
By Tonette Orejas Northern Luzon Bureau First Posted 00:40am (Mla time) 02/11/2009
MORONG, Bataan – For the fourth time in 32 years, Julito Velasco entered the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) on Jan. 22. Unlike in past decades when he negotiated the steep steel stairs with ease, Velasco, now 61, caught his breath.
At the dank control room of the facility he and his townmates in Morong town had helped close in 1986, Velasco sidled up to Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, engaging him in a debate over safety issues.
Cojuangco dished out loads of information in a bid to win Velasco over to his plan to start the BNPP. Velasco listened but was unconvinced.
Two hours after the inspection initiated by the lawmakers, Velasco showed that his passion to fight had not waned.
Haunting In a dialogue, he and 11 other leaders of the Morong Parish Pastoral Council, and their parish priest, Fernando Loreto, barraged Cojuangco with one issue after another, largely about the defects of the BNPP and the stories of corruption that had attended its construction since 1976.
The lawmaker was unfazed, justifying the revival plan for reasons of environment and electricity needs.
For Velasco, what transpired on Jan. 22 tells him that the fight against the BNPP has come around again, haunting him and Morong residents anew.
“Our fight is not yet over,” said Velasco, a former coordinator of the Nuclear-Free Bataan. He said the anti-BNPP campaign in the 1980s had taught them lessons, which they could use in this second round.
As it was then, the campaign is not only Morong’s fight.
“This must be a fight by all Filipinos. It’s like a broom. A few strands cannot sweep garbage. Many strands should be held together so the President can hear us,” Velasco said in Filipino.
Former Mayor Norberto Linao Sr., interviewed through his wife Dr. Fe Guerrero-Linao, echoed the same belief. Between 1972 and 1976, during Linao’s term, the residents first felt powerless because the BNPP was the project of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
But because the safety of their lives and communities was at stake, Linao remembered his constituents gathering courage to speak up, linking also with other antinuclear groups.
The protest rallies grew by the day, reaching by the thousands and going all the way to Malacañang. Marcos’ fall and then President Corazon Aquino’s concerns for safety tilted the campaign in their favor.
More difficult Velasco said the fight was going to be more difficult now. For one, the young people of Morong now have no memory of the anti-BNPP campaign or the issues of their elders.
For this reason, the Morong parish and the Diocese of Balanga are back to square one, doing information dissemination, Loreto said.
University of the Philippines Prof. Roland Simbulan, former national chair of the Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition, said the renewed campaign must consider the basic findings of the Puno Commission and American nuclear engineer Robert Pollard in 1980.
According to him, they concluded that:
The BNPP is not safe.
It is an old design plagued with unresolved safety issues. Thus, it is a potential hazard to public health and safety.
Its design needs fundamental changes and additional safeguards. Its safety is not assured because no safety devices have been installed.
The crucial problem of nuclear waste disposal has not been solved.
“These safety issues all remain unresolved,” Simbulan said.
He said the American National Union of Scientists Corp. (NUS), which the Philippine government asked to do a technical study, found more than 2,000 serious defects in design, construction, quality assurance, workmanship and project management which were not addressed by Westinghouse after the Puno Commission and Pollard pointed them out.
According to him, it was the last technical study by the NUS that was used as basis by Aquino and then President Fidel Ramos in deciding to permanently mothball the plant despite its tremendous cost.
“If there will be an effort to restart it, it will again be the single largest contract worth at least P3 billion at today’s costs. I’m sure some people are again aiming to corner this gargantuan contract at the expense of the safety and health of the Filipino people,” Simbulan said.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on Feb 17th 2009