Home » Ecotourism » Bataan Ecotour Promotes Sustainable, Renewable Energy

Bataan Ecotour Promotes Sustainable, Renewable Energy

Nature Trip: Bataan is organized by Greenpeace Philippines in cooperation with PRRM

Nature Trip: Bataan is organized by Greenpeace Philippines in cooperation with PRRM

PRRM has recently partnered with Greenpeace Philippines in organizing a day tour targeting photo-enthusiasts, bloggers and media people as well as tour operators on a tour of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) in Morong. Coinciding with the Global Day of Action to observe the 90th day of the Fukushima Meltdown, the tour was primarily designed to drum up greater awareness on the inherent dangers of nuclear energy and the call for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Greenpeace also wanted to highlight other ecological aspects of the province, looking at the possibilities of having the BNPP visit as part of a tourism package, to be offered by the province. Hence, PRRM was approached by Greenpeace to include the Pawikan Center in Morong in the tour itinerary. The invitation was a good opportunity for PRRM to also explore the prospects of reviving its eco-development tourism program.

Inside the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP)

With the bus leaving Quezon City early in the morning of June 11, the tour group arrived at the BNPP at around 9am. After a requisite registration of participants, we were led to an auditorium where plant officials gave an overview of the BNPP. Acknowledging the pro-renewable energy stance of the tour organizers, BNPP officials sought to highlight the differences between the BNPP and the Fukushima plant (which 90 days after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, is still in critical condition). Compared to Fuskushima’s boiling water reactor (BWR), BNPP has a pressurized water reactor (PWR) which according to them is the nuclear plant model that has not yet figured in any mishaps. The BNPP is constructed 18 meters above sea level, which they claim should ensure adequate protection in a tsunami scenario. Mr. Marcelo, an administrator at the plant, also pointed out that that nuclear energy remains the cheapest source of energy at P1.00/kilowatt compared to P17.00 of solar energy. Despite these assurances, participants remained skeptical and as one of them commented, “if a First World country like Japan is unable to contain a meltdown, what more a country like the Philippines?”

The mothballed BNPP. Off-limits to civilians for decades, the plant is now operational-as a tourist attraction on the DOT's list.

The mothballed BNPP. Off-limits to civilians for decades, the plant is now operational-as a tourist attraction on the DOT's list.

Built by Westinghouse, the BNPP was state-of-the-art, three decades ago. Plans to revive it with an infusion of new capital is being met with strong opposition from civil society as well as within government.

Built by Westinghouse, the BNPP was state-of-the-art, three decades ago. Plans to revive it with an infusion of new capital is being met with strong opposition from civil society as well as within government.

The controversial power plant, begun in 1976 and finished in 1984, was built at a cost of $2.3 Billion loaned from the World Bank. Besieged by both technical and political challenges, the plant never became operational and has been dubbed one of the Marcos Regime’s white elephants. Despite long-running calls to for the cancellation of  the WB debt, the Philippine government continued to service this debt at PhP40 Million a year until it was finally paid off in 2007. Both pro and anti-nuclear proponents have since been thinking of ways to recoup the plant’s losses. Greenpeace is thus proposing to make the BNPP an educational tour destination, taking off from a pronouncement made by the Department of Tourism (DOT) listing the BNPP as a tourist attraction in Bataan.

The central command room, with its analog dials and gauges.

The central command room, with its antiquated analog dials and gauges.

The heart of the BNPP-the nuclear reactor. The BNPP uses a pressurized water reactor (PWR) as compared to Fukushima which uses a boiling water reactor  (BWR).  PWR's are more stable and among other types of reactors, has not figured in any "incidents", BNPP officials claim.

The heart of the BNPP-the nuclear reactor. The BNPP uses a pressurized water reactor (PWR) as compared to Fukushima which uses a boiling water reactor (BWR). PWRs are more stable and unlike other types of reactors, have not figured in any mishaps, BNPP officials claim.

 But what about Fukushima? anti-nuclear advocates ask, which with all the First World technology, remains in critical condition?

But what about Fukushima? anti-nuclear advocates ask, which with all the First World technology, remains in critical condition?

Footing the bill. With the BNPP continuing to lose money, moves to make it a tourist attraction is a positive development.

Footing the bill. With the BNPP continuing to lose money, moves to make it a tourist attraction is a positive development.

Tour participants navigate the labyrinthine passages and inner rooms of the BNPP. A BNPP manager points out one of the 4000 "minor" defects of the nuclear plant--a protruding tube that could be bumped into accidentally.

Tour participants navigate the labyrinthine passages and inner rooms of the BNPP. A BNPP manager points out one of the 4000 "minor" defects of the nuclear plant--a protruding tube that could be bumped into accidentally.

Pawikan Center

The Pawikan Center is managed by Bantay Pawikan.

The Pawikan Center is managed by Bantay Pawikan, a local community organization and PRRM partner.

The tour also featured a stop at the Pawikan Center, also in Morong. Bantay Pawikan, Inc., a partner community organization of PRRM, has been running a community-based conservation program of Marine Turtles with the help of UNDP-GEF-SGP-PRRM and the Provincial Government since 1999. Marine turtles instinctively seek the shorelines where they are born. Unfortunately, these nesting grounds often suffer from the intrusion of people, who construct houses or harvest eggs and turtles for profit, now illegal under R.A. 9147. Bantay Pawikan has been at the forefront of turtle conservation and awareness-raising among communities along the 7-kilometer shoreline of Morong which marine turtles go to to lay their eggs.To protect the eggs, Bantay Pawikan conducts nightly patrols to monitor the arrival and egg-laying of the marine turtles. The Bantay Pawikan’s current president Manolo Ibias is proud of the fact that from 1999 to the present, they have walked back and forth along the Morong shores an astounding equivalent of the distance from Manila to Sao Paolo! Upon finding the eggs, Bantay Pawikan shelters them in a hatchery until they hatch and are ready to be released.  To date, 47,000 hatchlings have been released into the wild by the organization.

 

One of the Pawikan Center's wards. The shoreline of Morong is a sea turtle hatching ground. Unfortunately, these creatures often get caught in fishermen's nets or fish cages. The Center serves as a clinic and rehabilitation center for injured turtles.

One of the Pawikan Center's wards. The shoreline of Morong is a sea turtle hatching ground. Unfortunately, these creatures often get caught in fishermen's nets or fish cages. The Center serves as a clinic and rehabilitation center for injured turtles.

Tour participants listen intently to the presentation.

Tour participants listen intently to the presentation.

Ka_ , President of the Bantay Pawikan, gives a very engaging overview of the life cycle of marine turtles, an endangered specie which their organization has vowed to protect.

Manolo Ibias, President of the Bantay Pawikan, gives a very engaging overview of the life cycle of marine turtles, an endangered specie which their organization has vowed to protect.

The tour was capped by a visit to historic Mt. Samat Shrine, which commemorates the last stand of Philippine and American soldiers during World War II.

Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor at dusk.

Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor at dusk.

Greenpeace hopes that the groundbreaking event would spark more eco-tours in the province in order to “highlight how nuclear energy can threaten quality of life, contrasting it with how technologies and practices that are more sustainable, such as renewable energy, can better benefit both people and the environment”  as Francis Dela Cruz, Public Outreach Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia shares. Designing a trip with a visit to the Pawikan Center as well as the beaches and scenic trails in the province can also reinforce the creation of  greater ecological awareness among future visitors.




Publications

Journals, Books, Articles, Features and Commentaries on national and international policy, grassroots developments and initiatives and rural reconstruction movement. Read more
Community and Habitat No. 13: Community resilience needs a change in mindset Community and Habitat No. 13: Community resilience needs a change in mindset
Community resilience needs a change in mindset
THIS ISSUE OF PRRM’S COMMUNITY & HABITAT JOURNAL IS focused on the intertwined issues of climate change, energy and food.

Development Courses
Conrado Benitez Institute for Sustainability (CBIS)

The CBIS offers a range of sustainable development courses covering different situations. Read more

Downloadable Forms
CBIS Handbook 4 | Enrollment Form