Senate panel suspends hearing after 'coughing, sniffling' NGCP chief skips session

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2020 10:47 AM

MANILA - A Senate panel on Tuesday suspended an investigation on China’s stake in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) after the power grid’s chief failed to attend the hearing after being hospitalized.

The Committee on Energy needs to hear answers straight from NGCP President Anthony Almeda because he “wields power” over the country’s lone power grid, committee chair Sherwin Gatchalian said.

Almeda had to be admitted to a hospital in Biñan, Laguna after “he felt unwell yesterday afternoon,” NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza told the Senate Committee on Energy.

Almeda, who resides in Alabang, has been holding office in Quezon City and attended meetings in Pasig City where several individuals tested positive for the COVID-19, Alabanza told ABS-CBN News.

“Yesterday afternoon we had a meeting at noontime. I noticed that he was already looking a little bit tired. His eyes were red and he was coughing and sniffling,” she said.

“Sinabihan na siya na magpatingin na siya sa clinic... talagang magpahinga na. Nag-ingat na lang at siniguradong hindi siya makakahawa kung meron man siyang sakit at hindi pa lalala 'yung sakit niya,” she said.

Albanza said the NGCP chief was not using the rise of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila to dodge questions about how the firm allegedly allowed Chinese nationals to have control over hardware and software, which was prohibited by the constitution.

“We were preparing. It just so happened na nagkasakit siya,” she said.

NGCP should have notified the committee ahead of time to avoid “wasting time,” Gatchalian said.

“Nakakahiya para sa mga senador na nagprepare din. Nasayang ang oras,” he said.

The NGCP hearing was one of the 3 meetings that pushed through on Tuesday after the Senate suspended sessions until March 11 to “protect” its employees from contracting the disease that has killed nearly 4,000 people and infected 110,000 others worldwide.