MANILA — The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines on Thursday said it was not to blame for delayed projects, and fended off criticism that it was making consumers pay even for delayed projects.
The country’s power grid operator also insisted that power transmission improved since it took over operations from the government.
A recent Senate hearing found that 66 projects, of which 33 were in Luzon, 19 in the Visayas, and 14 in Mindanao, remained unfinished.
NGCP Assistant Vice President Cynthia Alabanza however said the projects were delayed due to restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as right-of-way issues.
"COVID happened. That's the reality. The right-of-way happened. It's a problem. Even government admitted that right-of-way is a difficulty,” Alabanza told ANC.
She said right-of-way issues that were turned over to them by the government in 2009 have “not been fully settled" as the vast majority of them have no documentation.
"The difference between government and NGCP is that when we enter, we have to pay the proper compensation to the landowner. That doesn't seem to have been the case because they have not turned [over documentation to] us all," she said.
The NGCP also “drastically improved” an aging transmission system since it took over control of the agency. This was after a lawmaker said majority of power outages were due to the company.
Alabanza said NCP has invested some P300 billion into the transmission system resulting in lower rates and higher transformer capacity, among others.
"[We] outspent government, we’ve lowered rates. Our performance in terms of managing the grid have increased, ERC record will bear that out," she said.
Alabanza also defended the P2.75 per kilowatt-hour charge that the NGCP collected from consumers for its transmission projects, including those that have to be finished.
This additional charge was part of NGCP's P52-billion transmission charge collection for 2022.
Alabanza said this form of billing has been in place even when the government-owned National Transmission Corporation or TransCo still operated the grid.
"It sounds so bad but in reality its for the consumers so we don't have to pay one time, big time so its spread out over long period of time. It is similar to when you buy a condo on pre-selling. The reason you buy it in preselling is because you don't want to pay up in one go so that’s what the ERC [Energy Regulatory Commission] is trying to do when they rationalize how we charge things," she said.
NGCP said transmission rates charged to consumers have become lower when they took over. Alabanza also defended the practice of charging payment even for projects that have yet to be completed.
Alabanza also insisted that the company cannot be solely blamed for recent power outages as it only transfers power in bulk, and does not generate or distribute it.
"You can't just pinpoint NGCP," she said.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian meanwhile has urged the ERC to penalize NGCP for the delayed projects.
"I strongly suggest to the commission to enforce fines and penalties so we can impose discipline on NGCP. We are not seeing discipline because a lot of projects are delayed," Gatchalian said in a statement.
In a separate statement, ERC Chairperson Monalisa Dimalanta
said they are conducting review of the complaints as well as possible NGCP violations.
"We can assure the Senate and electricity consumers that this Commission is conducting a diligent review of the complaints, delays and possible violations of NGCP," she said.
"We are prepared to enforce the full force of the law as appropriate based on the findings," she added.
Several lawmakers have called for the review of the NGCP franchise alleging that it was inefficient. National security concerns were also raised as 40 percent of the NGCP is owned by State Grid Corporation of China.