Senators wary of Chinese ‘control’ over NGCP

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 13) — Even the country’s power grid operator seems to have been controlled by the Chinese government, senators said Wednesday amid concerns over Beijing’s threat to national security.

During a plenary session on the 2020 budget of the Defense Department, Senator Ralph Recto warned of serious repercussions in China’s co-ownership of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

The NGCP consortium, which operates the country’s power transmission system, is comprised of the Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. led by Henry Sy, Jr., Calaca High Power Corporation led by Robert Coyiuto, Jr., and the State Grid Corporation of China. The Chinese company is a technical partner and holds a 40-percent stake in the NGCP.

Recto, however, said the SGCC may be more than a minority foreign owner.

“Right now ang buong kuryente ng Pilipinas ang nagpapatakbo the state grid of China (Right now Philippine electricity is operated by the state grid of China),” Recto said.

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson added, “In fact I heard that the equipment that arrived in Chinese character na and they are manned by Chinese personnel.”

Recto pointed out that the Chinese can “turn it off remotely,” posing dangers to the country in case of a war.

“Ang giyera naman na darating ganoon na e (Future wars will be like that), not necessarily missiles. Cyberwar. And what is that? Telecommunications,” Recto said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he could not go to war with China over the South China Sea dispute. Beijing claims almost the entire global waterway, despite the arbitral ruling recognizing Manila’s sovereign rights in some areas within its 200-nautical mile exlcusive economic zone that are being contested by China. The Duterte government has been criticized for nurturing friendly ties with China and entering into partnerships despite the risk of compromising national security.

Recto urged defense and security officials to look at these issues holistically, pointing out Chinese companies’ involvement in other projects, including the CCTV deal with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the agreement to build communications equipment in military camps. Lacson said the Defense Department has committed to look into Recto’s concerns.

The military and China Telecom-backed Dito Telecommunity, have assured that their deal will not jeopardize the country’s security, as both sides claim protocols are in place to protect the country’s communications. Malacañang likewise said the government will not allow any information leak from the China-funded camera surveillance project.

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