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Hontiveros asks for cybersecurity audit of ‘China-controlled’ NGCP

Aika Rey
Hontiveros asks for cybersecurity audit of ‘China-controlled’ NGCP
Senator Risa Hontiveros says: 'Ang chairman Chinese, halos lahat ng contractors Chinese, ang systems software made in China, at ang training sa China. Pero dapat magtiwala at maniwala tayo na ito ay 'Filipino-run'?'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, December 9, is pushing for an “immediate” inspection and cybersecurity audit of the facilities of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

The NGCP, of which China’s State Grid Corporation has a 40% stake, has facilities that only Chinese engineers have access to and could be “deactivated remotely” by Beijing, according to a previously leaked report published by the CNN.

In a privilege speech, Hontiveros showed documents belying pronouncements that China has a mere advisory role, even as the NGCP insisted that China only contributed “technical advise.”

“Mr President, ang chairman Chinese, halos lahat ng contractors Chinese, ang systems software made in China, at ang training sa China. Pero dapat magtiwala at maniwala tayo na ito ay ‘Filipino-run’?” Hontiveros said.

(Mr President, the chairman is Chinese, almost all contractors are Chinese, the systems software was made in China, and the training is in China. But we have to trust and believe that this is Filipino-run?)

Documents presented to the Senate showed that Chinese nationals Zhu Guangchao, currently China’s State Grid Corporation director-general, is NGCP chairperson; a certain Wen Bo is the Chief Technical Officer; and a certain Liu Zhaoquiang is the Assistant Chief Technical Officer for operations and maintenance. (READ: China control of NGCP ’cause for concern’ – Carpio)

CHINESE. An NGCP memorandum signed by Liu Zhaoqiang. Photo courtesy of Hontiveros' office

AUTHORITY. A manpower request form at the NGCP shows that a certain Wen Bo is the approving authority. Photo courtesy of Hontiveros' office

“When a private corporation can stonewall lawful and reasonable requests for inspection and audit by duly-appointed authorities of the Philippine government while raking in billions in profit, one must ask: saan sila kumukuha ng lakas ng loob? (Where do they get their strength of will?)” she said.

Hontiveros on Monday pointed out that the control system being used by NGCP is in Mandarin. She also noted that there are at least 43 projects related to power grids that were awarded to Chinese contractors. 

“Mataas na nga ang presyo natin sa kuryente, exposed pa ang pambansang seguridad. Para naman tayong ginigisa sa sarili nating mantika niyan. At parang nagbigay tayo ng all-access pass sa mga dayuhan,” Hontiveros said.

(The price of electricity is already high, and yet our national security is exposed. It’s like we’re being fried in our own lard. And we’re giving all access to foreigners.)

Hontiveros also slammed the concession agreement that favored “big income” for China and the NGCP. She claimed that the corporation has achieved its target return of investment of P180 billion from the transmission business.

She also said that at least P7.4 billion in foregone revenues are lost from the government annually because of the tax exemption granted to the NGCP.

“We should investigate the [Energy Regulatory Commissions’s] approval of NGCP’s transmission charge in relation to unusual Weighted Average Cost of Capital of 15.04% instead of the standard global average of 8%,” Hontiveros said.

“At kung mapatunayan na labis ang singil ng NGCP, ay simulan ang proseso ng reimbursement sa mga mamamayan. (And if it’s proven that NGCP is charging more, we should start the process of reimbursing our citizens),” Hontiveros added.

The senator said that the power deal and the legislative franchise of NGCP should be reviewed. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the chair of the Senate energy committee, has already filed a resolution seeking a probe into the issue. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.