THE House Committee on Ways and Means has approved the tax and revenue provisions of the unnumbered substitute bill that would create a body that will regulate the nuclear energy sector in the country.
The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente “Joey” S. Salceda, approved the substitute bill, which seeks the establishment of the Philippine Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority, or “PhilATOM,” and provides for a comprehensive legal framework for radiation protection, nuclear security safety and safeguards and physical safety in the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy in the Philippines.
The panel specifically approved PhilATOM’s exemption from donor’s tax.
The bill also mandates that, in accordance with the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (Republic Act 10863), the review and approval of export authorizations of nuclear materials would be coordinated with the Department of Trade and Industry-Strategic Trade Management Office, the Bureau of Customs and other border authorities.
Aside from establishing the PhilATOM, the bill also sets up a comprehensive legal framework for radiation safety and standards for the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy. The bill also sets the requirements for authorization and regulation of nuclear energy applications. The House tax panel revised tax provisions which the nuclear energy panel accepted.
“It is high time to finally provide for a guiding framework to harness nuclear energy in the country,” Salceda said. “Let’s stop scaring ourselves and let the science and history guide our decisions on nuclear energy.”
Dependence on coal, oil
THE lawmaker noted that the country’s dependence on coal and oil imports, “the long-term effects of fossil fuel consumption on health and climate, the instability of other energy sources, as well as the land area needed by most renewable sources all point to nuclear as a necessary, if not inevitable, option for a country with our population size.”
According to Salceda, nuclear can produce energy for as low as P1.50 per kilowatt-hour in generating costs.
“Of course, I understand the valid criticisms of nuclear energy. But, nuclear energy cannot be a yes-or-no question, where we simply choose to completely ignore it forever. If the question is safety, what we must ask ourselves is how to make nuclear energy safe, not to abandon it altogether,” he said.
Salceda said that due to fossil fuel use, estimates range from 11,000 to 27,000 premature deaths per year.
“Nuclear pollution will only cause 1 death every 33 years. Just below solar energy, it is the safest form of energy and it is baseload, unlike solar,” he added.
Salceda said he and fellow authors of the yet-to-be named bill are “open to arguments centered on the science.” The bill is principally authored by Representatives Marcos Juan Bruno “Mark” O. Cojuangco, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Salceda.
“But without a guiding framework to begin with, no meaningful debate can take place,” he added.