Morong: Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Quick Tour
This structure, located in Napot Point, at the town of Morong in Bataan, is a reminder of how the government once attempted to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. It should have been an answer to the nation’s energy woes because of the oil crisis in the Middle East during the 70’s. But because of the controversy that hounds it, from construction to finish, it never became operational.
We are on our way to Morong from Bagac when we noticed its large billboard along the highway. From the gate, we tried to enter. We just learned that we need to secure a letter or reservation in advance prior to being granted access. As we were already at the site, we tried to talk to Ma’am Cora, the Plant Tour Coordinator, to enter the complex. We were fortunately allowed in and were escorted by Rosie (an employee) to enter the plant itself which is three kilometers far from the gate. I thought that the plant’s location is well thought by the planners: it is placed at one tip of Bataan Peninsula and should there be a meltdown, it is far from the National Capital Region, the busy port of Subic and the provincial capital of Balanga. Additionally, the mountain ranges at the east side serve as its natural barrier while the opposite side is facing the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Because we came in too early and off-schedule we have no tour guide. Fortunately, the complex has kind employees who assisted us and answered our inquiries. Since 2014, the BNPP complex was opened to the public as a tourist spot in Bataan, because of its failure to be finally brought online as a power plant and to cover its soaring rehabilitation cost. It is why the government thought to make it an educational tourist spot.
Upon entrance, the sheer silence gives the feeling of an eerie atmosphere. The structure is still intact and well-maintained, but the decades of inactivity gives an additional chill. It felt as if we’re in Pripyat or any post-apocalyptic site or in a quest in Fallout video games. This unnerving feel briefly left us when several vehicles shuttling Napocor employees passed by. The Napocor (National Power Corporation), by the way, is tasked to maintain the plant (which is, according to them, costs them PhP40 million yearly).
In front of the power plant is the office building of Napocor. It contains several information, details and scale models of the power plant. This is the only building in the complex accessible to the public. A special permit is needed to enter the power plant itself.
There is not much activity if you’re a tourist aside from taking photos or gathering information. But seeing this personally gives a different feeling. Especially when observing its structure, which should have given the country a sense of pride or at least a solution to the country’s electrical woes, but went to nothing because of the controversies that surround it. What’s more painful, you are paying for it, yet you can’t use it. Mapapa******* ka talaga! (I’m a Christian so I can’t use swear words hehe)
- From Bagac town, it takes 20 kilometers (or 30 minutes trip). The roads are well maintained but most portions are zigzag or mountainous.
- It is 12 kilometers from Morong town proper (or 15 minutes trip)
- From Subic, take the SBMA-Morong Road (more known to the locals as the Backdoor Highway). It is 50 kilometers from Subic and trip lasts more than an hour.
- From Subic, take the shuttle or bus going to Bagac. Tell the driver that you will be getting off in BNPP.
- If going from Balanga, take the jeep or shuttle going to Morong and tell the driver you will be getting off in BNPP.
P100 – Entrance Fee/Environmental Fee
Ma. Corazon Baluyot
Tel Number: (+632) 9245313
Because activities are limited in BNPP, try to go have a beach bum in a nearby resort, the Westnuk. It is only 2 km from the plant.
Note: There is a separate entrance fee to the beach.
Also, try to buy kasoy from its employees (their sideline). It is cheaper than in the market.
DASH OF HISTORY
During the Martial Law, President Ferdinand Marcos first conceived of a plan to build a nuclear power plant in 1973. This is in response to the oil crisis after the Middle East imposed an oil embargo which subsequently strained the Philippine economy. A presidential committee was set up to secure funding for the 600-megawatt nuclear power plant for the energy needs in Luzon.
The first controversy that hounds the power plant is during the bidding, where the two bidders were General Electric (GE) and Westinghouse Electric. GE submitted a proposal containing detailed specifications of the power plant with the estimated cost of US$700 million, while Westinghouse offered a slightly lowered cost but without any specifications or detail. The project was awarded to Westinghouse by Marcos himself, overriding the committee’s proposal to award it to GE instead. Soon the project ballooned to US$1.2 billion without any explanation. Later on, Westinghouse was discovered to have sold the similar technology in other countries for the fraction of the project cost in the Philippines.
The controversy doesn’t only end up there. While the power plant started construction in 1976, the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979 forced the suspension of the power plant’s construction, following safety concerns. Safety inquiry revealed over 4,000 defects, and other issues raised are its location near a fault line and its proximity to the then-dormant Mount Pinatubo (which eventually erupted in 1991).
What seemed to be the death blow to the Power Plant is when the new government of Corazon Aquino decided not to operate the power plant, following the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster which became the deadliest and worst nuclear accident in history.
Since then, there were already several attempts to revive the Power Plant especially on the recent looming energy crisis in Luzon, as well as to “lower the cost of electricity”. But all of them did not go to fruition.