Manila Standard : Duterte to meet Marcos for gov’t turnover—Palace

By Vito BarceloandRey E. Requejo | Manila Standard

Malacañang on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to meet his successor in the coming weeks as Duterte’s transition team prepares for the turnover of power and responsibilities to the new administration under presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Acting presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said the President had earlier created a transition committee that will work closely with the representative of the president-elect to ensure a proper and orderly transition of government.

Andanar admitted that Duterte and his transition teams have not yet met with nor reached out to the camp of the next president.

The President also has no comments about Marcos Jr.’s choices for his Cabinet, he added.

Duterte, however, said he was hopeful the next administration would explore nuclear energy as an alternative source of power.

In a prerecorded Talk to the People aired Monday night, Duterte said the next administration must study nuclear power because the Philippines, which depends on imported crude oil, is vulnerable to the effects of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Duterte referred to the controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) in Morong, Bataan, a project of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. which was never used because of safety and corruption issues.

“You know oil is not infinite. Someday it will dry up. It will be good for any government to prepare the possibility of making the transition from oil to nuclear,” he added.

In February, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 164, which would establish a nuclear energy program for the Philippines.
The EO, which outlined the national government’s position on a nuclear energy program, accounts for economic, political, social, and environmental objectives.

It also mandates the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and implement the Nuclear Energy Program as part of the Philippine Energy Plan, and coordinate with and assist the Nuclear Energy Program-Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) in performing its functions.

Earlier, Marcos said he was looking into reviving the mothballed nuclear power plant.

He said the BNPP was ordered shut “not because of any scientific reason” but “for politics.”

Marcos signaled his determination to adopt nuclear power Monday, holding talks with South Korea’s envoy on possibly reviving the mothballed $2.2 billion plant built during his father’s dictatorship.

The 620-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was left dormant after the elder Marcos was toppled in 1986.

In the run-up to the May 9 presidential election, Marcos Junior spoke about the need for nuclear power to address exorbitant electricity costs in the country.

He left open the possibility of resuscitating his father’s failed venture — an idea he is now pushing ahead of his June 30 inauguration.

Marcos said he met South Korean Ambassador to Manila Kim Inchul on Monday to discuss a proposal on reviving the Bataan plant.

“Can we continue with it, or do we need to build a new one? What are the things that we will have to do?” Marcos told a news conference after the meeting.

“So, we revived the discussions on it, although they have come before. We will now study their recommendations and their findings, and we will see if we can still apply,” he added.

Studies by South Korean and Russian experts showed it was possible to get the plant working again, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi told a Senate hearing in 2020.

But upgrading an aging facility fitted with outdated analog technology could take at least four years and cost another $1 billion.

There are also question marks on its design and location.

A monument to the greed and graft of the elder Marcos’s era, the plant sits 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Manila, near several volcanoes in a part of the Philippines regularly shaken by earthquakes.

“If we are going to industrialize post-pandemic, we are going to go through rapid industrialization, then the power sector must be ready for that,” Marcos said.

Building a new power plant from scratch would take three to seven years, he added.

Meanwhile, the incoming executive secretary said Arsenio Balisacan, who headed the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) during the Aquino administration, has agreed to return to the post in the incoming administration.

“The economic managers are going to be critical for the next several years because of the pandemic and the economic crisis. So that is something that we are looking at very carefully,” Marcos said.

The President-elect had previously said that competence and not a nominee’s political leanings would be the basis for his appointment of key officials.

Balisacan will replace the current Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning and concurrent NEDA Director-General Karl Kendrick Chua, whom President Rodrigo Duterte appointed in 2021.

Before his Cabinet appointment, Balisacan was the Dean of the UP School of Economics and Director-Chief Executive of the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.

He currently chairs the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), a government body that aims to promote fair market competition, an inclusive economy, and advocate consumer welfare.

Also on Tuesday, Marcos expressed an interest in establishing an agreement with India to boost the local production of generic medicines.

Marcos said he met with Indian Ambassador Shambhu S. Kumaran and other members of the diplomatic corps at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

“India is one of the largest manufacturers of generic drugs. We could go into partnership to have production here in the Philippines,” Marcos said, in a press conference.

“I have no doubt that our manufacturers can do it but we will get advice because India has experience,” Marcos added.

India is a pharmaceutical powerhouse, considered the world’s largest manufacturer of generic medicines, with its 20 percent share of global pharmaceutical exports.

It also accounts for more than half of all vaccines produced globally.