If History Teaches Us A Lesson
It is that four of the five presidents who succeeded the late strongman President Ferdinand E. Marcos vehemently opposed his burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LB) in Fort Bonifacio.
They are Presidents Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and
Benigno S. Aquino III.
Only President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, who stopped the practice of giving sovereign guarantee to energy projects, did not oppose his burial at the LB.
The question is why?
Here’s a historical event that may provide an answer to that delicate query: There’s a common thread that runs through the four presidents: they were the ones, starting from Mrs. Aquino, who bungled the country’s most successful multibillion-peso energy project of President Marcos.
Between 1973 and 1985, the Marcos administration, based on indisputable government records, had succeeded in reducing the country’s dependence on Middle East oil, from 92 percent in 1973 to 71 percent in 1980, and further to 57 percent in 1984. By 1985, the Philippines stood as the world’s second-largest user of geothermal power, next to California, resulting further to 44- percent reduction of the country’s dependence on imported oil worth billions of pesos.
In order to attain its ultimate objective of total electrification and industrialization of the country, the Marcos administration had as its arm the National Power Corp. (NPC). Established in 1936 by President Manuel L. Quezon under Commonwealth Act 120, NPC reached a significant landmark in its corporate existence with the enactment of Republic Act 6395 in the second term of the Marcos regime in 1971, giving birth to a revised charter for NPC.
President Marcos, recognizing the power industry as the backbone of economic progress, issued Presidential Decree (PD) 40, which paved the way for the setting up of island grids with generating facilities and cooperatives for the distribution of power, mainly in the country’s rural areas.
In 1972 Marcos authorized the NPC, “to own and operate as a single integrated system, all generating facilities supplying electric power to the entire area embraced by any grid set up by NPC.” Targeted to be integrated in this system were all Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) generating units. After a long series of selling negotiations by the Lopez family, a contract was finally signed and the government purchased Meralco’s power-generating units at P1.1 billion. The acquisition of Meralco’s thermal plants was in line with NPC’s plan to centralize all generating capacities in Luzon as part of the so-called Luzon grid.
In another breakthrough move, Marcos increased the capitalization of NPC to P50 billion in 1978 through PD 1360, thus, it catapulted NPC’s financial strength and capacity to tap possible sources of power, particularly in nuclear-power development.
A sleeping giant
AS a response to the 1973 global oil crisis, President Marcos was determined to build a nuclear-power plant that shall supply the country’s energy demands and further decrease our dependence on imported oil. Thus, the construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) began in 1976.
When the BNPP was finished in 1984, with its cost totaling to $2.3 billion, it was one of the state-of-the-art nuclear power station in the world. The BNPP was designed to withstand an intensity-8 earthquake in the Richter scale, making it sturdier and safer than the Fukushima power plant in Japan, which in 2011 survived an intensity-7 earthquake before the subsequent tsunami hit.
If the Bataan plant had operated, it would have produced 621 megawatts of electricity, enough to power at least 10 percent of the present power requirements for the Luzon grid. It would have addressed our looming energy crisis. It could have ushered the country into nuclear power and brought our economy at greater heights.
However, this facility sitting on a 369-hectare property in Morong, Bataan, remains idle from the time of its completion in 1984 until today. It is a “sleeping giant,” reduced into an artifact for tourists to see, buried in years of misguided priorities and baseless fear.
Down the drain
The so-called People Power Revolution in 1986 overthrew Marcos. With the BNPP standing as a Marcos regime relic, the unfounded allegations of overprice in BNPP construction, and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster as a horror story, the succeeding administration of Mrs. Aquino decided to leave the giant sleeping.
Yet, because of her rigid mandate to “honor all debts,” the Philippines spent P120 billion in principal and interest charges for the BNPP, which never produced a single kilowatt of electricity.
Four months after the Edsa
Revolution, exactly on June 19, 1986, President Cory Aquino’s administration, likewise, deliberately abolished the Ministry of Energy and placed the multibillion-peso Philippine National Oil Corp. (PNOC), a successful Philippine firm featured successively in Fortune’s 500 Best Corporations, under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President.
The rest is history, and the stark details of how they bungled the energy sector is retold by this writer in two books, Greed & Betrayal and a Country Imperiled-Tragic Lessons of a Distorted History, both published by Amazon, one of the world’s largest publishing houses.
On reflection, can you imagine a serene scenario with Mr. Marcos sharing the same graveyard of the four other presidents when the time comes?
By: Cecilio T. Arillo, Business Mirror