For Senator Risa Hontiveros, the transfer of authority of the country’s power grids from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) back to the government means two things — resolving the persistent power outages along with the cybersecurity risks accompanying its privatization.
Hontiveros made the statement earlier as she expressed support to the proposal of Cusi to revert the control of the electricity grid operations from NGCP, which the official said had failed to secure enough power reserves that are necessary to augment supply in case of unforeseen power plant outages.
She expressed frustration on the NGCP’s asking: “When a private corporation can stonewall lawful and reasonable requests for inspection and audit by duly-appointed authorities of the Philippine government while raking in billions in profit, one must ask: Where do they get their strength of will?”
The NGCP is a private consortium that took system control of the country’s power transmission assets in 2009 for a 25-year agreement. It is 40 percent owned by China’s State Grid Corporation of China while 60 percent of it is owned by two Filipino companies.
Senators have repeatedly raised alarm on the country’s national security over the massive ownership of China over the country’s electricity networks.
At a Senate probe on NGCP’s mandate in safeguarding the grid, Hontiveros raised “grave concern” on various issues surrounding the privatization including the involvement of Chinese engineers in the Philippine transmission system, reports of manuals being written in Mandarin and the state grid being controlled remotely by China.
“This would not be just an ordinary business model we’re talking about, but it would be a serious national security concern given China’s recent behavior and hegemonic aspirations. Obviously, China is not just in the West Philippine Sea. She (China) is also a part of our daily lives, every minute, every hour, every moment,” she said.
“As a Filipino, I resent the limited access of our department to a critical or central aspect of our power system. As a Filipino legislator, I will work to assert this and secure this for the department and National Transmission Corporation (TransCo),” she added.
Stand up vs China on grid
Senator Richard Gordon backed her statement saying the Philippines should be prepared in standing up against China given that it has discovered that it has the “clout” and “power of money.”
“Obviously, our military should be watching this. The economic planners should be watching this regularly,” he said.
“I would advise all of us here to make sure that we look at how Chinese operators all over the world right now, now that they have discovered that they have the clout, they have the power of money. And if they are able to do that, we better be prepared to be able to make sure that we stand up to (against) them but we should stand up against them early enough and we should prepare to have a game plan so that when they leave, we can take over,” he added.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Energy Committee, allayed fears saying most NGCP employees are Filipinos.
Following the recent developments, NGCP’s franchise is hanging by a thread as it is in the risk of losing its privilege to operate the transmission backbone either through an ongoing performance audit or revocation of its franchise by Congress.