VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Gadon’s claim on reason of Cory Aquino for stopping BNPP operation FALSE

Read this fact check in Filipino

Lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon claimed former president Corazon Aquino stopped the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) from operating because she “didn’t want Filipinos to remember the Marcos family.”

This is not true.

STATEMENT

On Oct. 2, Gadon re-shared his own Facebook (FB) post -- originally uploaded on Feb. 29 -- about the mothballed power plant project of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. In the caption, he said:

"…[P]ara lang wag bumango ang pangalan ni Pres. Marcos, gagawin nila (dilawan) lahat para hindi mapakinbangan ang kanyang mga proyekto, bagkus ay sinakripisyo nila yung magiging magandang maidudulot nito sa ating bansa.

(...Just to prevent President Marcos’ name from being praised, the dilawan would do everything so his projects would not be used, instead they sacrificed its potential benefits for our country.)”

Source: Larry Gadon official Facebook page, “Kung hindi lang pinigilan ito ng PEKENG SANTA…,” Oct. 2, 2020

“Dilawan” is a colloquial term used to refer to members and supporters of the Liberal Party.

FACT

While it is true that Aquino decommissioned the multi-billion-peso BNPP, the “reason” that Gadon cited has nothing to do with the mothballed power plant.

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In 1986, Aquino’s Executive Order 55 said the Philippine government decided not to operate the BNPP “for reasons of safety and economy.”

Marcos’ BNPP project was marred with safety concerns and corruption allegations before, during, and after its construction in 1985.

Safety

Nuclear experts who observed the power plant during construction questioned its build quality and site location, according to a 1986 report by Fortune Magazine.

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned in 1978 that building the BNPP in Napot Point, Bataan would be risky. It specifically pointed out the possible eruption of nearby Mount Natib, as cited in a brief submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1979 by three petitioners who sought to intervene in the application to export a nuclear reactor, component parts and uranium fuel to the Philippines for the planned power plant.

In 1979, a commission headed by then Minister of Justice Ricardo Puno to assess the BNPP’s operational safety in light of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania concluded the plant is plagued by ''unresolved safety issues” and could be “a potential hazard to the health and safety of the public.

The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union reaffirmed the Aquino government's decision not to operate the power plant.

Economy

The BNPP, constructed by Westinghouse Electric Corp., cost at least US$2.1 billion, of which US$1.2 billion remained unpaid after Marcos’ ouster, according to a 1986 Los Angeles Times report.

Under Aquino’s EO 55, the government assumed the remaining debt but payments were completed only two decades later in 2007.

The project was also riddled with corruption allegations. Marcos was accused of pocketing “most of an [US]$80 million payment” from the deal, according to a 1986 report by The New York Times.

In 2012, Marcos crony Herminio Disini was ordered by the Sandiganbayan to return the US$50.6 million in ill-gotten wealth that he received for helping broker the agreement between the Marcos government and contractors of the BNPP.

Gadon’s FB post received a total of over 20,000 reactions, 1,400 comments, and 3,300 shares, as of publication. It was also turned into a story by a website called Protectprrd (protectprrd.com), which got over 1,600 interactions according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

A similar claim by Facebook page Bagong Lipunan, which circulated early in 2019, was fact-checked by Rappler in July that year.

Gadon’s claim was published a day after President Rodrigo Duterte said on Oct. 1 that he ordered authorities to consult Bataan locals regarding the possible revival of the BNPP.


Sources

Larry Gadon official Facebook page, “Kung hindi lang pinigilan ito ng PEKENG SANTA…,” October 2, 2020

The Official Gazette, Executive Order No. 55, Nov. 4, 1986

Fortune Magazine, The $2.2 Billion Nuclear Fiasco, September 1, 1986

United States of America Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Brief of Petitioners in Response to NRC’s October 19, 1979 Request for Views on Philippine Export Proceedings, November 21, 1979

Philippines Commission on Nuclear Reactor Plants, Report of the Commission, November 16, 1979

United States of America Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Backgrounder on the Three Mile Island Accident, June 21, 2018

HISTORY, Nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island, November 4, 2009

Christian Science Monitor, Sparks fly over Philippine nuclear plant, November 30, 1984

Philippine Journal of Public Administration, The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant: Three Episodes of Decision Making, July 1987

The Washington Post, Chernobyl Prompts Philippines to Reassess Reactor, May 16, 1986

Philippine Journal of Public Administration, The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant: Three Episodes of Decision Making, July 1987

The Los Angeles Times, $2.1 Billion Nuclear Plant, Never Used, Stands at Core of Philippines’ Debt Crisis, June 12, 1986

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mothballed plant cost $2.3 billion, September 17, 2016

GMA News Online, Revisiting the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, June 28, 2011

ABS-CBN News, Bataan Nuclear Power Plant: The dormant multi-billion peso asset, Sept. 26, 2016

Rappler.com, Govt urged to act on $1-B Bataan nuclear plant rehab, June 2, 2013

The New York Times, Filipinos say Marcos was given millions for ‘76 nuclear contract, March 7, 1986

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sandiganbayan orders Marcos crony to return $50-M loot in nuclear plant deal, April 13, 2012

Rappler.com, Court orders Marcos crony to return $50-M, April 12, 2012

Philstar.com, Sandiganbayan orders return of Disini's ill-gotten wealth, April 13, 2012

Rappler.com, MISLEADING: Bataan Nuclear Power Plant 'wasted by Cory Aquino', July 13, 2019

ABS-CBN News, Duterte wants Bataan folk consulted on nuclear plant revival, says Roque, October 1, 2020

CNN Philippines, Duterte orders consultations with Bataan residents amid calls to reopen nuclear plant, October 1, 2020

Inquirer.net, Duterte wants local consultation before Bataan nuclear plant revival, October 1, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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