By Mario Casayuran
China has the capability to remotely control the Philippines’ power transmission system.
Lawyer Melvin Matibag, president of the state-owned National Transmission Company (Transco), revealed during the deliberation of the proposed 2020 P2.3-billion budget of the Department of Energy (DOE).
He said China, and possibly hackers, can do this because of the installation of remote monitoring and control system at transmission lines under the supervision of the privately owned National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).
The State Grid of China, a corporation owned by the Chinese government, introduced the remote monitoring and control system after buying 40 percent of NGCP shares.
Under a concession, NGCP manages and operates Transco’s nationwide transmission system. However, Transco still owns the transmission assets.
In the Philippines, electric current passed through transmission lines from various power plants to distribution facilities such as those of the Manila Electric Corporation (Meralco).
During deliberations of DOE’s proposed budget, opposition Senator RisaHontiveros asked if China or other foreigners could tweak the country’s power transmission by remote control.
Through Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who defended the DOE budget, Matibag said this could be done because of modern technology in telecommunications and software.
Hontiveros said this is dangerous to the country’s security because government entities are not given regular and full access to the transmission facilities.
Senator Richard J. Gordon shared Hontiveros’ fears that China could control the country’s power supply.
Through Gatchalian, DOE and Transco officials assured there are safeguards like Filipinos, not the Chinese, supervise the transmission lines.
These energy officials said that in the event of sabotage through remote control, the President has the power to order a takeover and that there are available technology to bring back electric power in 24 to 48 hours.
They said President Duterte and the Cabinet security cluster discuss this during their regular Cabinet meetings.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, vowed to call to a meeting the Joint Congressional Oversight Commission and discuss national security concerns on the power transmission issue.
Gatchalian said Transco, which is the former operator, is still the owner of the transmission assets and is doing a lot of technical regulatory and financial audit.
“Hindi lang operations, hindilangchini-check kung sinonagma-manage kundititnitingnan din ang economic and technical aspect. Rest assured that the government is on top of this concern(Transco is not only operations, but is checking who is managing it and is also looking at the economic and technical aspect),” he added.