By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, has formally asked the Senate leadership to scrutinize the compliance of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) on its mandate to safeguard the grid and ensure continuous electricity supply in the country.
Gatchalian, likewise, asked that the Joint Congressional Energy Commission (JCEC) meet to look into the operations of the country’s power transmission line to verify whether Filipinos are in charge of its day-to-day management amid national security concerns. JCEC is the country’s primary watchdog in the power sector.
Last Thursday, Gatchalian filed Senate Resolution 219 after senators expressed concerns over China-owned State Grid Corp.’s 40-percent stake in the country’s lone transmission line.
The Gatchalian resolution was probably triggered by reports that it is possible that China has the capability of sabotaging the country’s power supply by remote control.
This possibility was confirmed last Tuesday by lawyer Melvin Matibag, president of the National Transmission Company (Transco) during the deliberation of the proposed 2020 P2.3-billion budget of the Department of Energy (DOE).
This could reportedly be done by China and other possible hackers because of the installation of remote monitoring and control system at transmission lines under the supervision of the NGCP, Matibag said.
Gatchallan said that there was a need to verify whether Filipinos are actually in charge of the day-to-day management of the grid as mandated by the constitution despite the TRANSCO’s and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) manifestations during the 2020 budget deliberations that all executive officers of NGCP are Filipinos,” he said.
“We should employ all possible safeguards to ensure that Filipinos are in control of lone power grid, that Filipino interests are being protected and national security concerns are covered 100 percent,” he added.
While State Grid Corp. has 40-percent stake in the NGCP, Gatchalian stressed that its concession agreement limits the Chinese-owned firm from assigning Chinese officials from managing the transmission lines.
Gatchalian also contends that there was a need for a more active government supervision over the national grid, and wants to ascertain a plan of action for the regular audit and inspection of NGCP’s operations and to formulate a national strategy to ensure security and resiliency of the national grid amid physical and virtual threats and vulnerabilities.
“The national grid is the sole backbone for the transmission of electricity throughout the entire country and any event leading to its failure to operate will have wide-ranging effects on the economy, public safety, and national security,” Gatchalian stressed.
“The power transmission line is one of the vital facilities in our country. With a single switch, no electricity will be transmitted in our homes, businesses, to our military facilities. That’s why it is very important that the management in control of the transmission line are Filipinos,” he added.