In this photo taken on November 19, 2019, Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte talks during a late-night press conference at Malacanang Palace in Manila. (AFP / Ted Aljibe)

Misleading claim circulates on Facebook that Duterte has signed order to open nuclear power plant

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Multiple Facebook posts shared hundreds of times in August 2020 claim that President Rodrigo Duterte has signed order to open a nuclear power plant. The claim is misleading; in July 2020, Duterte signed an executive order to conduct a study on the country’s nuclear power policy; as of August 31, 2020, legislative records show the president has not enacted a law to open a nuclear power plant.

The claim was published on Facebook here on August 27, 2020. The post has been shared more than 1,800 times.

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on September 1, 2020

The photo shows an image of Duterte alongside an image of the late president Ferdinand Marcos. Under Marcos’ term from 1965 to 1986, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was built but never used.

Its text overlay states: "Philippines finally nuclear / Already signed / Solid Duterte page / This is surprising Philippine nuclear plant finally signed olig (sic)..."

The post’s caption states: "Meralco oligarchs would weep / Hope this gets opened soon so we don't pay high electricity bills anymore".

Meralco is the largest private sector electricity distributor in the country, according to its corporate profile. 

A similar claim was also shared here, here, here and here on Facebook.

The claim, however, is misleading.

In response to the posts, Michel Kristian Ablan, an assistant secretary at the presidential communications office, told AFP the most recent measure signed by the president related to nuclear power was this executive order. 

“Not a law. But an EO. Executive Order No. 116, s. 2020. Signed on July 24, 2020,” Ablan said by text message.

The order does not mention opening a nuclear power plant, but states in part: “The government shall conduct a study for the adoption of a National Position on a Nuclear Energy Program… Review the existing legal framework, study the viability of nuclear energy, and recommend the necessary steps in the utilization of nuclear energy, as well as existing facilities such as but not limited to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant”.

Multiple keyword searches on the websites of the Philippine House of Representatives here and Senate here show there was no legislative measure to open a nuclear power plant signed in August 2020.