Today in Philippine history, March 15, 1956, the Philippines was selected as site for Asian Nuclear Research Center

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   Atoms for Peace program

On March 15, 1956, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, announced in Manila that the Philippines had been selected as site for the projected Asian Nuclear Research Center, this was followed by a statement in Washington, issued by the International Cooperation Administration (ICA), which ran, in part:

"The Republic of the Philippines has been chosen as the site for the new Asian nuclear center which was proposed by the United States at the Colombo Plan meeting held in Singapore last October. The United States is now preparing to move rapidly with initial plans for the establishment of this center as a means of putting atomic energy to work for the economic and social progress of Asia. This action will represent an important step toward the further advancement of President Eisenhower's atoms-for-peace program."

"Careful consideration of all of the factors involved in the matter of physical location led to the decision that the Philippines best meets the requirements of availability of the proposed center to all of the Colombo Plan countries .... The United States has been gratified with the interest shown in its proposal by the Colombo Plan countries. In this connection the offer of the Philippine Government to provide the physical site for the center is an important contribution to its ultimate success."

The projected nuclear research center would provide funds for laboratory facilities and equipment, and to supply a reactor to serve research and training purposes. It would supplement existing facilities for the basic training at the college level for engineers, chemists, and physicians. It could also offer facilities for research in the field of medicine, agriculture, and industry. It would be able to provide valuable training for instructors and teachers in nuclear science for other Asian educational institutions. It could also serve as a convenient meeting place for international conferences for scientists, government officials, industrialists, and others interested in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

Earlier on August 13, 1955, a month after the Geneva Atomic Energy conference, in line with the atoms-for-peace plan proposed by US President Eisenhower before the General Assembly of the United Nations of December 9, 1953, President Magsaysay issued Administrative Order No. 134, "Creating an Interdepartmental Committee on Atomic Energy".

The Order reads in part:

"By virtue of the powers vested in me by law, I, Ramon Magsaysay, President of the Philippines, do hereby create an Interdepartmental Committee on Atomic Energy to determine the scope which the country expects to cover in the field of nuclear-energy studies and to consider ways and means of financing the work.

"The Committee is hereby authorized to call upon any department, bureau, office, agency, or instrumentality of the Government for such assistance and information as it may need in the performance of its functions. The Committee shall submit its report and recommendations to the President of the Philippines as soon as possible ..."

Subsequently appointed to this Interdepartmental Committee were:

  • Cesar Lanuza, Economic Officer, Department of Foreign Affairs, Chairman;
  • Pedro Afable, Secretary;
  • Octavio Maloles, Department of Foreign Affairs;
  • Dr. Gregorio Y. Zara, Civil Aeronautics Board;
  • Director Benjamin Gozon, Bureau of Mines;
  • Alfredo Eugenio, Administrator of Civil Defense;
  • Dr. Paulino J. Garcia, Secretary of Health;
  • Dean Crisostomo Ortigas, College of Engineering, University of the Philippines;
  • Col. Florencio Medina, Research and Development Division, Armed Forces of the Philippines;
  • Dr. S. Ador Dionisio, Chief of Clinics, Philippine General Hospital; and
  • Leopoldo Salazar, Institute of Science and Technology.

This is an administrative Committee rather than a committee of physicists, and early in January 1956, Vice-President, and concurrently Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Carlos P. Garcia, called a meeting of the heads of the departments of physics of the different private universities and told them that the Philippines had been tentatively chosen as the site for the projected Asian nuclear research center and that it was desirable to form a nuclear research and training association which would include scientists known in the United States. The "Philippine Nuclear Research and Training Association" was forthwith organized and a Nuclear Committee of this Association was formed to which five scientists were nominated, these being subsequently officially appointed by Vice-President Garcia in his capacity as the Chairman of the Organization Conference.

Dr. Theodor Brings, head of the Department of Physics, Far Eastern University, was appointed Chairman.

Appointed members were

  • Dr. Ciriaco Pedrosa, O.P., Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, University of Santo Tomas;
  • Dr. Hans Scharpenseel, of the Araneta Institute of Agriculture;
  • Dr. Hsieh Yu Ming, head of the Department of Physics, University of the East; and
  • Brother Howard Edwards, S.S.C., Dean of Liberal Arts, De La Salle College.

In its announcement, William F. Russel, deputy director of the ICA, said that the center is the most ambitious, costly, and extensive nuclear project for solving health, economic and industrial problems in Asia. Funded by the Eisenhower's fund for Asian economic development, it was targeted not only on training and research, but on practical application of atomic energy. "After the development of an isotope laboratory and research reactor, we will go on to a power reactor", Russel said.

Reference

  1. American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Journal, Volume 32, Number 4, April 1956


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