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House committee approves atomic regulation measure

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara and other DOST officials and staff join the members of the House Committee on Appropriations in an online meeting to approve the substitute bill for the Comprehensive Atomic Regulation Act.

The bill establishing a stronger legal regulatory framework for ionizing radiation has hurdled the House Committee on Appropriations, a news release from the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) said.

The committee recently approved the substitute bill for the Comprehensive Atomic Regulation Act, which consolidated 13 House bills supporting the measure.

During the committee meeting on May 12, Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña expressed his support for the creation of an independent regulatory body consistent with the international standards.

Among the key provisions of the bill is the proposed creation of the Philippine Atomic Regulatory Commission (PARC) that will regulate all activities and facilities involving sources of ionizing radiation.

These include nuclear and radioactive materials, facilities and radiation-generating equipment commonly used in the medical and industrial sectors.

The country has at present two regulatory bodies that deal with ionizing radiation.

The DOST-PNRI regulates nuclear and radioactive materials and facilities, while the Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health and Research of the Food and Drug Administration under the Department of Health regulates radiation-generating devices, such as X-ray machines.

De la Peña said that “no less than the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly emphasized that regulatory functions should be separate from promotion and research work, hence the proposed creation of PARC as a separate regulatory agency from PNRI.”

He noted the timeliness of the legislative measure with the continued expansion of nuclear applications in agriculture, medicine and industry, and as the country begins studying again the inclusion of nuclear power to its energy mix.

President Duterte signed Executive Order 116 last year that created the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee to study the adoption of a national position on nuclear power. The NEPIAC is chaired by the Department of Energy with the DOST as vice chairman.

“The study incorporates the IAEA’s Milestone Approach on 19 nuclear infrastructure issues a country must first address in preparation for a nuclear power program, including the establishment of an independent regulatory body,” according to the DOST-PNRI statement.

The bill was approved by the House of Representatives in January 2019 before the 17th Congress closed and refiled in the 18th Congress where it was approved at the House Joint Committee on Government Reorganization, Science and Technology and Energy in March 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic led to stringent community quarantine measures across the country.

Its counterpart bills in the Senate were filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Ramon Revilla, Jr.

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