A Russian official on Tuesday clarified that an agreement to explore the possibility of constructing floating nuclear power plants for the Philippines was preliminary and could not advance without approval from the government in Manila.
Russia is ready to assist the Philippines in its energy needs, pending approval, Moscow’s envoy to Manila, Igor Khovaev, told reporters.
“We have the most sophisticated technologies in this field and we are ready to help the Philippines in developing your nuclear energy,” Khovaev said, adding, “provided that our Philippine partners want to do that.”
He confirmed that a memorandum of intent between the Philippines energy department and the Rosatom State Atomic Agency to study the possibility of nuclear power plants here, including floating ones, was signed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Russia earlier this month.
Duterte had earlier said the deal was still under study by his cabinet, as it might not be legal under the nation’s constitution, which bars nuclear weapons in Philippine territory.
“The Constitution would not like it. That is why I have to talk to the cabinet. I cannot affirm or deny that, because that’s part of the proposals,” Duterte said on Oct. 6, according to CNN Philippines. The president had just returned from a five-day trip to Russia.
The Russian firm announced in April 2018 that it had constructed the world’s first floating nuclear power unit, dubbed “Academik Lomonosov.” It sailed to the Arctic port of Murmansk and from there left on a 4,000-mile journey to Pevek, another Russian city, in August 2019.
No country in Southeast Asia has a functioning civilian nuclear power plant. A previous attempt to bring nuclear power to the Philippines never materialized.
Under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the country began construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in 1976, in an area about 100 km (62 miles) west of Manila.
The plant, constructed above a major fault line, was mothballed amid safety concerns in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
On Tuesday, Khovaev said the Bataan plant was outdated, making its revival unlikely, but he said both countries could explore future cooperation.
“What I want to emphasize is that it is up to you, Filipinos, to decide whether you need nuclear energy or not,” he said. “If you decide that you need it, we’ll be ready to help. The final say always belongs to you.”
He noted that Russia had developed nuclear plants in about 30 countries around the world, and said it was one of the most sophisticated and safe technologies in the world.
“And of course any possible cooperation with Russia in this field will be in full compliance with current international law and the relevant criteria and requirements of the International Atomic Agency,” he said.