NGCP, a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining and developing the country’s state-owned power grid, is 40 percent owned by the State Grid Corp. of China.
Walter Bollozos
Can China shut down Philippines power remotely?
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 21, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — The Senate committee on energy will conduct an inquiry into the apprehensions raised by the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) that China may be able to remotely shut down significant portions of the country’s power infrastructure.

The concern was raised during the deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of Energy (DOE) at the Senate late Tuesday, where the matter of the Chinese ownership of 40 percent of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) was tackled by senators.

NGCP, a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining and developing the country’s state-owned power grid, is 40 percent owned by the State Grid Corp. of China.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Risa Hontiveros first raised the matter on the floor, pointing out that China could arguably be the best in the world when it comes to information and communications technology. 

“About the control of the Chinese in the NGCP, while we have not achieved full control, can another actor take down our power grid?” Hontiveros asked Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the energy committee and the one who defended the proposed DOE budget. 

Gatchalian, who was answering for DOE and Transco officials during the deliberations, said that such a situation was possible given current technology and advancements in software. 

It was learned during proceedings that while Transco is allowed to inspect NGCP facilities, including transmission lines, the former only has limited access to them, causing a dispute between the two entities. 

Senators pointed out there must be contingency plans in case of such a remote shutdown.

Zubiri said the franchise granted to NGCP allows for immediate government takeover, while Gatchalian said Transco has the expertise to operate the facilities manually and resume operations in 24 to 48 hours.

Sen. Richard Gordon asked whether or not such a national security matter was discussed in the Cabinet. 

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, speaking through Gatchalian, said the matter is taken up during the weekly meetings of the security cluster, and the apprehension was raised with President Duterte last month. 

“Our military should be watching this. The economic managers should be watching regularly,” Gordon said, adding that NGCP reportedly had embedded “dark fibers” or additional fiber optic cables whose purpose remains unknown. 

Gatchalian, however, clarified yesterday there is no direct evidence that the State Grid of China has the capability to shut down NGCP but “the technology is available.” 

“So, we’re now going to scrutinize the technical aspects. It’s difficult to say they have the technology installed. But the technology is available. That’s why Transco is requesting to conduct a technical and financial and legal audit of NGCP,” Gatchalian said. – With Edu Punay, Robertzon Ramirez

CHINA ELECTRICITY
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