Harris announces US-PH talks on nuclear cooperation deal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — US Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday announced that the United States and the Philippines are initiating talks on a civil nuclear cooperation deal.

Once in force, the so-called 123 Agreement will provide the legal basis for US exports of nuclear equipment and material to the Philippines, the White House explained in a fact sheet released on Monday.

It added that the deal aims to support expanded partnership on zero-emission energy and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

“The United States is committed to working with the Philippines to increase energy security and deploying advanced nuclear reactor technology as quickly as safety and security conditions permit to meet the Philippines’ dire baseload power needs,” the White House said.

“Such a deployment would support both energy security and climate goals, as well as support workers and businesses in both countries,” it added.

Harris arrived in Manila on Sunday evening for talks on strengthening cooperation on security, economy, and climate action, which a senior US official said has been the “theme” of Harris’ visits to other countries.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez was earlier quoted that the Marcos administration is considering bringing in US-developed small modular reactors to the country. 

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has emphasized the need to reevaluate the Philippine government’s strategy for building nuclear power plants in the country to address climate change and to strengthen national disaster resilience capabilities.

RELATED: Marcos wants to reexamine PH's nuclear technology, renewable sources in energy agenda

US, PH strengthen security cooperation

Meanwhile, a senior US official said on Sunday that the two nations are strengthening their security cooperation related to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as an outcome of Harris’ visit to Manila.

Philippine military officials earlier said the US is eyeing to set up more temporary facilities. Under the EDCA, the US can build temporary structures for its troops and equipment storage. The proposed additional locations are Zambales, Cagayan, Isabela, and Palawan — all facing China, Taiwan, and the Korean Peninsula.

RELATED: PH eyes more EDCA sites for US

The senior US official also said Harris will discuss the importance of respect for human rights during her bilateral meetings with Marcos and her Philippine counterpart Sara Duterte.

Gabriela: Reject nuclear deal

In a related development, Women’s group Gabriela on Monday warned against the planned nuclear cooperation deal as it may “add fuel” to the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Harris’ planned visit to Palawan is a provocative gesture directed at Beijing. We reiterate our position that territorial tensions must not be a platform for any foreign power to meddle in our affairs,” Gabriela said in a statement.

“We call on millions of Filipino women to reject Washington’s renewed imperialist flexing over the Philippines, as we echo the calls for the abrogation of unequal US-Philippines treaties,” it added.

Gabriela also warns that the agreement may be used to discreetly export and install nuclear weapons in the country.