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Hontiveros seeks security audit on PHL power transmission grid


Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution urging for a legislative probe into the national security implications of partial Chinese ownership in, and control of, the country’s power transmission grid.

In Senate Resolution No. 223, Hontiveros proposed that the Joint Congressional Energy Commission conduct a national security audit on the operations and facilities of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the country’s power transmission service provider. 

According to a report by Agence France-Presse, Hontiveros said that there are reports Chinese engineers are illegally operating power transmission facilities and that the Philippine government, which owns the facilities, no longer has access to them.

The NGCP is 40% owned by the State Grid Corporation of China.

The NGCP consortium, which holds a 25-year concession contract and the 50-year franchise to operate the power transmission network, consists of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. led by Henry Sy Jr., Calaca High Power Corporation led by Robert Coyiuto Jr., and the State Grid Corporation of China as technical partner.

Zhu Guangchao, the vice chief engineer and director general of International Cooperation Department of the State Grid Corporation of China, sits on the board of NGCP.

Other members of the NGCP board are Philippine Stock Exchange chairman Jose Pardo, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. chairman emeritus Francis Chua, SGCC Philippine Office is the director general Shan Shewu, SGCC Africa Office chief representative Liu Ming, engineer Liu Xinhua, ALALMEDA Land Inc. chairman and CEO Anthony Almeda, and Sagayo Law Offices partner Paul Sagayo Jr.

National Transmission Corporation (Transco) president Melvin Matibag confirmed during the Senate plenary budget deliberations that it is possible to take down the country’s power grid remotely.

Hontiveros said that the official also told the Senate that the national grid has been denying his company full access to the facilities.

This poses a grave risk to public infrastructure vital to national security, she said.

Lawmakers will review and evaluate the performance of the NGCP and investigate reports that China may control and remotely shut down the country’s power transmission system, the senator noted.

“We need to know for certain if our energy systems and infrastructure fully remain under Filipino control, and if we have implemented the technical safeguards needed to prevent foreign interference in or sabotage of our national electricity grid,” she said.

There were reports that “foreign executives” connected with the NGCP have been hiring and deploying foreign drivers and engineers, in violation of Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution—which requires executive and managing officers of public utilities like NGCP to be Filipino citizens—and the Anti-Dummy Law, according to the senator.

Reports also claim that only Chinese engineers have been able to troubleshoot, operate, and control the NGCP’s power transmission facilities “because of the currently-installed information and communication technology for the automatic and remote monitoring and control of said facilities,” Hontiveros said.

Beijing 'not aware' of situation, says spox

According to the Agence France-Presse report, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing on Friday that he was "not aware of the situation" when asked about the security threat to the Philippines posed by the Chinese stake in the NGCP.

"What I can tell you is that under the political guidance of our leaders, the China-Philippines relations have turned around and improved, with steady progress seen in exchange and cooperation across the board," Geng said. — with Agence France-Presse/VDS/BM, GMA News