"We have to ensure that our networks are secure."
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the country, it is inevitable that we adapt to the “new normal” living arrangement. Under this new normal, many of us are shifting to remote and virtual alternatives to continue daily activities. Primarily, this entails the use of the internet or telecommunications to engage in business transactions or conduct online classes, among others. As a consequence, there is a higher demand for power and telecommunications services.
Our dependence on these two public utilities is more accentuated today than before. Accordingly, the need to secure these two public utilities to ensure reliable services and prevent external or foreign interference becomes a prime concern.
I have repeatedly stated the risks posed to our national security by the current ownership by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the participation of State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) in the company. As a private entity, capitalization of NGCP affects the management and operations of the company. However, as a public utility, public interest must take precedence. These conflicting interests affect the performance of the corporation despite legal and government regulations.
When I visited the NGCP facilities during the previous Congress, I was disturbed by the possibility that our power lines can be easily shut down remotely. With the role played by the SGCC in the corporation, technology sharing is inevitable. A team composed of foreign nationals were reportedly hired as technical advisers; they gave expert advice to the corporate executives. Also, the equipment used by the NGCP were procured from China. With this, we cannot dismiss the idea that foreign entities involved in the NGCP can control our power transmission.
The NGCP has also stated during the Senate hearings that they have been vulnerable to cyberattacks. If these cybersecurity incidents have become common to NGCP, how will it be able to counter foreign control of our power transmission? This aggravates our present concerns.
With NGCP’s commitment to ensure reliable transmission of power from the generation facilities to our homes, the corporation launched its One Grid project which aims to fully connect all three grids in the entire country. The One Grid project is set to be finished with the completion of the Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project which will link the Visayas and Mindanao power grids.
While the project promises less power interruptions and energy resource sharing, the risks still outweigh the benefits. As the issues on the corporation’s ownership and control remain questionable and unsettled, we cannot let NGCP gain access to the entire country’s power grid. Once all power grids are united under the control of this privately-owned corporation, our power supply is left vulnerable to external or foreign intrusion. This is the consequence we have to face with the privatization of this public utility.
Our national transmission lines need to be state-owned. By turning over the operation and maintenance of the power grid to the State, we are assured that our power networks are secure. This also means that the National Grid Corporation will be absolutely and definitely Filipino-owned. While there is compliance with the letter of the law regarding 60-40 ownership of public utilities, now, more than ever, we must take to heart the spirit of the law.