After PH inks nuclear energy deal with Russia, Duterte says it may be unconstitutional

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President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Sochi, Russia. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 6) — After the Philippines signed a deal with Russia on the possible construction of nuclear power plants, President Rodrigo Duterte said this may not be constitutional after all.

“The Constitution would not like it. That is why I have to talk to the Cabinet. I cannot affirm or deny that because that's part of the proposals,” Duterte told reporters Sunday upon returning to the Philippines from his five-day official visit to Russia.

He added that he has to consult his Cabinet to see if anything in the deal would need the consent of Congress.

An agreement to explore the possible construction of nuclear power plants in the country was among the 10 business agreements with Russia, estimated to be worth $12.57 million or around ₱650 million.

The Constitution does not ban the use of nuclear energy, but it does “adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”

Russian media earlier reported that the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation offered to build floating nuclear power plants in the Philippines. Rosatom Director General Alexei Likhachev was quoted as saying the Philippines can also reboot its existing power plant or build another station.

The country's first and only nuclear power station, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, never became operational due to issues of corruption and safety, compounded by the fear following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The mothballed project was revisited in 2018 as the Philippines' looked for other sources to meet the growing demand for power. Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev, however, told CNN Philippines that the plant was beyond revival because of its "absolutely outdated" technology.

In November 2017, the Department of Energy inked a memorandum of understanding with Rosatom, which the Foreign Affairs department said covers cooperation on the various uses of nuclear energy.

The Department of Science and Technology also signed an agreement with Rosatom on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, which took effect in December 2018. The agreement covers workshops, training of personnel, and the exchange of scientific information.

CNN Philippines’ Eimor Santos and Janine Peralta contributed to this report.