Palawan was recently included in a shortlist of 10 possible locations for the construction of a nuclear power plant by the National Energy Program Inter-Agency  Committee (NEP-IAC), according to a report by a national daily.

The shortlist included Barangays Concepcion and Sitio Tagbarungis, Barangay Inagawan Sub, all in Puerto Princesa City, as possible nuclear power plant sites.

The list was reportedly an outcome of a study prompted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 116, which both created the NEP-IEC and its purpose to study the feasibility of nuclear energy in the country. The study concluded in late 2020 and is pending the president’s approval.

“[The recommendation] has been on the desk of the president since December and I have been eagerly waiting for [it] to be signed. When [Duterte] signs that, it will start the nuclear ball rolling, and part of that includes the management, financing, siting of nuclear projects, among others,” Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) Director Carlo A. Arcilla was quoted as saying.

The PNRI, an agency under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), is a member of the NEP-IAC.

Other possible sites included in the study are Racat Rapuli, Sinuangan and Matara Point in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, Sipalay and San Carlos, Negros Occidental; Bayawan, Negros Oriental; and Piacon Point and Cauit in Siocon, Zamboanga.

Key local environment officials including Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta, executive director for the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), and Felizardo Cayatoc the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), said that they have yet to see the study and declined to comment on the matter.

Nuclear energy is being eyed as a more stable and secure energy supply to the country’s energy woes. Palawan, whose power providers are mostly reliant on diesel generators, is no stranger to frequent blackouts due to broken generators, faulty wiring, and lack of diesel supply. However, nuclear power remains unpopular in the country, with environmental lobbyist advocating instead for “cleaner” sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.