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NGCP controls utilities, telcos?

With NGCP possessing fiber-optic power, it wields power to control the country’s energy system and its communications and data facilities as well

Komfie Manalo

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It’s not just power that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ (NGCP) can control.

When legislators investigated what caused the rotational outages early this month, a web of revelations was put in public focus, notably the grid’s refusal to honor its obligations spelled out in its concession contract and legislative franchise.

Slowly, the systems operator of the nation’s power grid had been exposed as possessing an extraordinary clout in the country’s energy sector and to some extent, in the very halls of power itself.

Daily Tribune also learned that the grid has long kilometers of fiber-optic cables that can control the communications system and its continued operation of hydro-electric dams, even at the height of typhoons, can have serious implications on the country’s supply of irrigation and potable water.

Continuous running of hydro-electric power can deplete the supply of water in Metro Manila, thus creating the need for a new dam that — as it turned out — is to be built and funded by state-owned corporations of China.
The NGCP is also 40 percent-owned by the State Grid Corporation of China, putting its operations at the mercy of a foreign country.

Metro Manila’s water supply is supplied by the Angat Dam, which passes through the Ipo Dam and, via aqueducts connects the La Mesa Dam and the La Mesa Portal.

Control of the dams to release water and the now-infamous “valve” to divert water supplies is the responsibility of the dam manager and the National Irrigation Authority, but China’s shadow also looms large in the development of a new dam that is scheduled to be built along Infanta, Quezon.

Late last year, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) created a “dam safety committee” which would act as an oversight body between the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) and different agencies involved in dam operations.

The committee places the responsibility of releasing excess water during heavy rains to PAGASA and dam managers.

A bypass gate valve is required to divert the water supply, but this is managed by Manila Water Company, a utility concessionaire owned by the Ayala family.

Department of Energy (DoE) spokesman Undersecretary Wimpy Fuentebella doubts the NGCP has the capability to control power plant operations more so divert water supplies. However, some of the power plants are owned by private corporations with significant stakes in the NGCP.

Asked if the energy department is aware of the power plants’ maintenance, operations, and schedule of a shutdown, Fuentebella said the NGCP submitted its Grid Operation and Maintenance Program in late December instead of October as required.

Largest telco

In November 2017, then Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Officer in Charge Eliseo Rio Jr. announced a plan to sign a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the NGCP and the National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) to allow the government to piggyback on the grid operator’s unused fiber-optic cables.

Had the deal pushed through, the DICT would have given the NGCP the backbone of the nation’s telecommunication sector through its fiber-optic cables.

The NGCP owns the largest submarine cable in the country, with its fiber-optic cables spanning 6,154 kilometers or 160,779 fiber kilometers.

With NGCP possessing fiber-optic power, it wields power to control the country’s energy system and its communications and data facilities as well.

When sought to comment, NGCP President Anthony Almeda said he would refer Daily Tribune to the company’s corporate communication team. “ill refer u pls to our corp com eats (sic) ur number pls,” Almeda said through a Viber message.

NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza did not respond to any texts, calls, and Viber messages.

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