Bataan Nuclear Power Plant – Legacy of Marcos and Philippines’ biggest “white elephant” ever

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant –  legacy of Marcos

and Philippines’ biggest “white elephant” ever

By Apolinario Villalobos

In 1973, Marcos decided that the Philippines needed a nuclear power plant. He perceived it as an added sparkle to the grandeur of a nation, of which he was the benevolent leader. He also expected it to exude the same semblance of modernity that other Asian countries projected.

But whether it was really that necessary, was out of the question. Studies by experts showed that only 15% of the population would be directly benefited…only those living on Luzon Island. Three quarters of the population during the time lived in rural areas distributed on the rest of the islands, and who fetched water for cooking and drinking in artesian wells, springs or rivers where clothes were also washed and where carabaos bathed – all located, usually kilometers away from their home.

Studies also showed that one out of ten homes in villages were makeshift hovels with only one bulb in use, if lucky enough to get connected to towns with power lines sagging between bamboo poles. In other words, the nuclear-fed facility was not the immediate need of the Filipinos. The country was a struggling rice producer and with a population whose employed segment lived below the poverty line. In this view, what the country needed was the enhancement of its agriculture industry and related endeavors that would give direct benefits to Filipinos, to lessen poverty.

Another issue was on the safety aspect of having such facility. The location of the plant was less than 100 miles away from four active volcanoes, and it was also proximate to three geological faults. It is a blessing in disguise that the plant is not operating today, in view of the imminent onset of a cataclysmic earthquake for which the Luzon populace has been preparing.

As the immensity of the project at USD1.2B plus the interest was expectedly beyond the financial capacity of the government, Marcos sought the assistance of Export-Import Bank in Washington. The cost of the said project, represented almost one-fifth of the country’s foreign accountability at the time. It was also the most expensive nuclear project in the world!…being more than three times the cost of similar project built by Westinghouse and also financed by Export-Import Bank in Pusan, South Korea. Whether the loaned money was properly used for the project or part of which went somewhere else resulting to such enormous amount, nobody during the time of Marcos, bothered to ask openly.

Nevertheless, Ex-Im Bank provided USD277M in direct loans while USD367M came in loan guarantees, biggest loan package ever approved by the bank “anywhere in the world”, under the chairmanship of William J. Casey who later became CIA Director under the Reagan administration. The deal was made after Casey met with Marcos in Malacaῆan Palace. Among the American presidents, Reagan was the closest to the Philippine president.

Among those who allegedly benefited from the project was Herminio Disini who undertook portions of the project.  The wife of Disini was Imelda’s cousin who had been governess of her children. Disini on the other hand regularly played golf with Marcos. Before the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant project, Disini operated a tobacco filter “company” in a one-room rented office, with the help of a secretary and her younger brother. Later, he hired the son of a high-level official in the Bureau of Internal Revenue to sell filters, and who insinuated clear messages to cigarette makers requiring filters. The scheme worked, as the cigarette makers were avoiding audits from BIR.

To date, the inoperative Bataan Nuclear Power Plant stands out in the flagging economic landscape of the Philippines. The Filipinos meanwhile, continue groaning from the heavy weight of accountability that shall extend down to several generations from now.

Dapat Magninay-hinay si Senador Marcos

Dapat Maghinay-hinay si Senador Marcos

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Nagkaroon ng pagkakataong mapasentro sa limelight si Senador Marcos dahil sa usapin tungkol sa Bangsamoro. Dapat mag-ingat siya at alagaan niya itong pagkakataon upang hindi masayang at biglang maglaho nang dahil lamang sa mga sasabihin niya sa media tungkol sa kanyang ama na talaga namang kinilalang diktador noong kapanahunan nito. Tumagal ang tatay niya sa poder dahil nagdeklara ito ng Martial Law, hindi dahil marami siyang ginawang kabutihan o dahil gusto siya ng mga Pilipino – yan ang dapat niyang tandaan. Ang sobrang pagnanasa sa kapangyarihan ang nagpabulusok sa kanyang tatay na ikinasama ng imahe nito na maitatala sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas bilang kinamumuhiang diktador.

Walang bigat ang pagiging sundalo ng kanyang ama noong WWII upang ito ay dapat na mailibing sa Libingan ng Mga Bayani o kundi man ay sa kanilang bayan pero may full military honor bilang “bayani”. Maraming sundalo noong WWII na nabigyan ng maraming medalya, hindi lang ang tatay niya. Ang ibang sundalong nabigyan ng ganitong karangalan ay nagpilit na magpakita ng karapatan hanggang sila ay mamatay. Ang dangal naman ng kanyang tatay, bilang presidente noon ng bansa ay nabahiran ng putik ng pagkasuklam ng mga Pilipino na nakapansin ng mga iregularidad sa unang termino pa lang nito, at lalong lumala noong patapos na ang kanyang ikalawang termino. At dahil ayaw nang bumitaw sa pwesto ay nagdeklara ng Martial Law na taliwas sa demokrasyang pinaglalaban ng mga Pilipino. Paano ngayon siyang ituturing na bayani, kung ang ginawa niya sa huling yugto ng kanyang panunungkulan ay hindi ayon sa adhikain ng mga Pilipino? Kaya dapat tumigil na siya sa pagturing na “bayani” ang kanyang tatay. Siguro para sa kanila bilang pamilya nito, ay okey lang, subali’t hindi para sa mga Pilipino.

Akala ni Senador Marcos ay nakakabuti ang pagpipilit niyang makasama sa usapan ng Bangsamoro sina Misuari at Umbrakato. Sa simula pa lamang ay gusto na ni Misuari ang magtiwalag sa bansa. Kaya ito naging gobernador ng ARRM noon ay dahil na rin sa kagagawan ng dating presidenteng Cory Aquino na nagpakitang gilas, in the name of reconciliation. Ang pananahimik ni Misuari sa Middle East ay binulabog ng “pakiusap” na umuwi. Ginawan ng paraan upang maging gobernador, subali’t sa kabila ng malaking pondong ibinigay dito, walang nakitang pagbabago sa mga nasasakupang bayan at probinsiya, lalo na sa Jolo na balwarte pa naman niya. Pati ibang lider ng MNLF ay lumayo sa kanya dahil hindi na nila matiis ang mga maling panukala nito. Upang makakuha uli ng atensiyon, ginulo ni Misuari ang Zamboanga…at ang sumunod ay pagpapakita na naman ng isang mukha ng kapabayaan sa panig ng gobyerno – ang paghihirap ngayon ng mga taga-Zamboanga. Si Umbrakato naman ay itinuring na noon pa man na “berdugo” dahil sa walang katuturang pananalakay sa mga bayan at pagpatay kahit na mga babae at bata. Ngayon, ano pang matinong ideya ang pipigain sa dalawa upang magamit sa usapan tungkol sa Bangsamoro?

Kung gusto ni Senador Marcos na magkaroon ng bahagi sa usapin ang MNLF, bakit hindi imbitahan ang mga namumuno sa ibang faction nito?

Paalala lang kay senador Marcos…palaging nasa huli ang pagsisisi!