U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on the empowerment of women and girls during a town hall meeting at a hotel in Pasay City November 21. – PHILIPPINE STAR/ KRIZ JOHN ROSALES
By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, reporter
The United States and the Philippines will begin negotiations on a civil nuclear energy deal, US Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday.
According to a fact sheet from the US Embassy in the Philippines, the US and the Philippines have started talks on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement “to support expanded cooperation on zero-emission energy and non-proliferation priorities.”
“Once this agreement enters into force, it will provide the legal basis for US exports of nuclear equipment and materials to the Philippines. The United States is committed to working with the Philippines to increase energy security and deploy advanced nuclear reactor technology as rapidly as safety conditions allow to meet the Philippines’ urgent baseload energy needs,” the US embassy said.
Ms. Harris is currently in the Philippines as part of a trip to strengthen economic and security ties with key Asian countries. She met with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio on Monday.
Also known as the “123 deal,” the US embassy said it would help both countries meet their energy security and climate goals and offer commercial opportunities for the private sector.
The 123 Convention consists of agreements designed to ensure that civil cooperation in the field of nuclear energy is protected from the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is also the basis of the US National Security Act, which requires such an agreement to be in place before civilian cooperation can proceed.
Mr Marcos previously said it was time for the Philippines to review its strategy to build nuclear power plants, noting that the country’s current energy needs far exceed its supply.
“In the field of nuclear power, new technologies have been developed that allow for smaller modular nuclear power plants and other derivatives thereof. Once again, PPPs (public-private partnerships) will play a role in support as funding is limited during this period,” Mr Marcos said in his first State of the Union address in July.
Last week Secretary of Energy Raphael PM Lotilla called on the National Power Corp. (Napocor) to consider tapping modular nuclear reactors to power remote areas.
Unico A. Bautista, senior research specialist at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, said the Philippines still had many infrastructure issues that needed to be addressed before nuclear power plant construction could begin.
“We still don’t have a nuclear program, so we’re still in the preparatory phase,” he told BusinessWorld over the phone in a mixed English-Filipino voice. Areas that need further development in the Philippines include radioactive waste management and the procurement process, among others.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy, the US Department of State and the Philippine Department of Energy will also set up an Energy Policy Dialogue, “a high-level platform for the two nations to develop new forms of energy cooperation, including short- and long-term energy planning, offshore Wind development and grid stability and power transmission,” the US embassy said.
The US will also deal with Lopez-led Energy Development Corp. (EDC) join forces to develop a geothermal project in Mindanao.
The US Trade and Development Agency will open an office at the US Embassy in Manila that would help American firms invest in the country, particularly in energy and infrastructure.
The US Department of Agriculture will also establish a Food Security Dialogue with its Filipino counterparts so both countries can work on resilient food systems and discuss best practices for agricultural innovation and sustainability.
The US International Development Finance Corp. (DFC) will also provide a $20 million loan for Agri Exim Global Philippines, Inc., a local processor of organic coconuts into derivatives, to expand its processing facilities.
The US embassy said the United States plans to partner with publicly traded Philippine company Now Telecom for the deployment of 5G technologies in the country.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is also supporting the launch of the first Low Earth Orbit Satellite Broadband Service in Southeast Asia in partnership with SpaceX Starlink in the Philippines.
USAID also launches initiatives to support small and medium-sized businesses and women entrepreneurs and to train workers for the high-tech manufacturing sector.