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China interference with PHL power transmission possible —Gatchalian

China interference with the power transmission in the country is possible as the State Grid Corporation of China holds a 40% equity stake at the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Sunday.

Gatchalian made the remark as he called for an investigation into the issues hounding the country’s power transmission grid amid growing national security concerns.

In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, the senator said the technology where one country could actually interfere with the power transmission of another is already available, and such interference could happen to the Philippines.

"Ang question, itong ganitong teknolohiya ay meron na ba at posible na bang mangyari? At ang sagot diyan ay posible," he said.

"Hindi naman natin sinasabi ngayon na gagawin sa atin yan, pero pagdating sa pag-uusap ng national security, dapat tingnan natin lahat ng posibilidad. At pagdating sa pag-uusap ng national security, dapat paranoid tayo," he added.

On Friday, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi said NGCP warned that China can remotely shut down the country’s power transmission.

“It’s a concern that has been raised before,” Cusi said, adding, “potentially, I repeat potentially, they can do it (remotely shut down) considering its (power grid's) digital nature.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, however, claimed that reports that China could shut down the Philippines’ power grid in the event of conflict have no basis and that the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) only took part in a National Transmission Commission (TransCo) project as a “cooperation partner.”

The NGCP, for its part, has downplayed concerns about China’s role in the company, saying the State Grid Corporation of China is merely a “technical adviser.”

But when it comes to this matter, Gatchalian said he would only listen to the opinion of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Cusi himself, considering that it is a national security concern and it involves the daily power transmission operations in the country.

"Other than itong national security adviser natin at DOE secretary, mahirap makinig at hindi natin dapat pakinggan yung nasa labas nitong issue na ito dahil natural naman na sasabihin nila yan para hindi tayo matakot," he said.

"Pero kagaya ng nasabi ko, trabaho ng isang national security group na maging paranoid, tingnan lahat ng possibility, tingnan lahat ng teknolohiya na ginagamit na ngayon dahil ang teknolohiya ngayon ay mabilis na nagbabago," he added.

Apart from the potential Chinese interference into the country's power transmission line, Gatchalian also said he wants to scrutinize the creation and timely implementation of the Transmission Development Plan to ensure that enough power facilities are available to meet the country’s increasing electricity demand.

He said that according to data from the Department of Energy, the country will need  43,765 megawatts of additional capacity by 2040.

As of September 2019, there are 33 delayed NGCP transmission line projects, Gatchalian said.

This, he said, may curtail the accommodation of over 15,000 megawatts of committed and indicative capacity feeding into the grid. —Erwin Colcol/LBG, GMA News