For the first time, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile disclosed that one of the objectives of the construction of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was the production of nuclear weapons for the Philippines.
Enrile who served as the defense chief during the Marcos regime revealed that during the time of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, there was a preparation for a weapon of mass destruction.
“By the way, if we continued with that power plant and we did not tinker with it, today, China will not challenge us even if we are a small nation,” said Enrile.
“That was intended to prepare us to have nuclear weapons,” he added.
The Philippines which currently has a territorial dispute with its bigger neighbor China has lost its chance to produce its own nuclear weapon because of the stoppage of the nuclear power plant’s construction.
“At that time when we were setting up the Westinghouse nuclear power plant, there was no non-proliferation treaty yet. That was one of the plans,” Enrile said referring to the weapon of mass destruction.
Enrile explained that with the US now closely monitoring countries that are developing nuclear weapons, the country will find it difficult to produce one.
Yet, he was quick on pointing out that the main purpose of the BNPP was to produce electricity.
“The plan was to produce electricity but the by-product was something else. But I do not know the mechanics or technology for it,” said Enrile.
Construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant began in 1976 but was stopped following the 1979 nuclear meltdown in the United States and because it was built close to major earthquake fault lines and because it is near Mount Pinatubo.
When the BNPP was nearly completed, its cost had reached $US2.3 billion. Equipped with a Westinghouse light water reactor, it was designed to produce 621 megawatts of electricity that was said to be the solution to meeting the country’s energy demands and decreasing dependence on imported oil.
Enrile said that although it had the capability to address the country’s power deficit that time, Corazon Aquino who took over Marcos as president decided not to operate the plant.
“Remember the (Cory) Aquino administration stopped the nuclear power plant that brought about the high cost of electricity and brown outs, and with that, stopped the economic progress of the land and caused the inability of our country to create jobs,” he said.
“We are here to serve the interest of the nation and not our personal feelings and interest. If we continued with the Westinghouse project, we were ahead of Korea, we were ahead of everybody, perhaps, including China.”Enrile added.
Juan Ponce Enrile Sr. was a protégé of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, and served as Justice Secretary and then Defense Minister under the Marcos regime. He later became one of the leaders of the 1986 People Power Revolution that drove Marcos from power and into exile.