'Onerous' power grid deal with Fil-Chinese firm lacks full oversight: DOE chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2019 04:53 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2019 05:30 PM

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MANILA -- The "onerous" contract of a Filipino-Chinese consortium to manage and operate the Philippines' power transmission infrastructure doesn't grant local authorities full oversight, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said Wednesday, as he supported calls to investigate the deal.

The National Grid Corp of the Philippines (NGCP), which is 40-percent owned by the State Grid Corp of China, doesn't allow Transco access to audit the grid operator's technical systems, Cusi told ANC.

Transco or the National Transmission Corp is a Filipino government body that owns the physical infrastructure. 

The Chinese firms' 2 Filipino partners own the remaining 60 percent of NGCP. 

"So if you're not allowed access, onerous po yun (that's onerous)," Cusi said. 

Cusi said "measures are in place" to prevent the Chinese firm from shutting down the Philippine grid, while it has the "potential" to do so.

"The President has ordered a full study to make sure that control and measures are in place," he said.

Lawmakers have raised concerns that the State Grid Corp of China could control the Philippines' power grid. 

Cusi said he had been asking for a review of the NGCP contract since he took over the DOE 3 years ago.

"We have discussed this in the Cabinet, and you know this is one of the onerous contracts that we have submitted, and we are reviewing," Cusi told ANC. 

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The NGCP does not allow Transco to audit the power grid's systems, Transco president and CEO Melvin Matibag earlier told DZMM.

Transco's board, which counts the Energy, Environment and Finance Secretaries, has been batting for an audit of the power grid, he said.

"Sila po, simula't simula, i-audit i-audit! Kami po ngayon susulat, mago-audit. Ang sasabihin (ng NGCP) hindi pwede. Kami lang ang masusunod dito. Hindi kayo pwedeng pumasok," Matibag said. 

(The Secretaries would call for an audit. We would write to NGCP that we would audit. They would say: that's not allowed. We're in charge here. You can't go in.)

Matibag said the Energy Regulatory Commission earlier ordered a third party independent audit of the grid, which the NGCP opposed. 

The NGCP denied allegations that China can remotely access and shut down the grid. 

"I can confidently say that whatever audit will reveal that everything we have said so far that we have just been running the grid in accordance with our mandate, in full compliance with our franchise under RA 9511, our concession and all rules and regulations and laws applicable to our business and I do believe that we will be vindicated," said NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Perez-Alabanza.