THE Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday debunked Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s exposé that a “national-security virus” has infected the country’s power industry.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said China’s presence in the power industry poses no threat to the country’s sovereignty and should not be a cause for any alarm.
Petilla confirmed that a company owned by the Chinese government, the Philippines’ rival in a bitter territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea, has a 40-percent stake at the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).
The NGCP is the private firm operating the country’s transmission system, the mechanism used to distribute electricity from generators to millions of consumers.
Petilla cited a high level meeting last year where concerned government agencies were convinced that China’s presence in the power grid poses no threat to the country’s national security.
The meeting, attended by the DOE, National Security Advisor (NSA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of the President and NGCP, was conducted to assess the threat of the Chinese firm’s stake at the power sector.
Petilla said that the National Transmission Commission is closely monitoring the Chinese technical people.
“During a high level meeting we asked if they are a threat, they are not; in fact they are being monitored by a composite team composed of NSA, DOE, DOJ and the OP,” he said.
To address the national security concern, the energy chief said they have already agreed to give the Chinese a year to transfer all the technologies to their Filipino counterparts.
“Just to make sure that the transition is smooth and the turn over is done with finality, all Chinese technical people and management will have to turn over their functions to Filipinos within one year,” said Petilla.
The DOE, Petilla added, has already issued a directive that by July this year, no Chinese will technically run the grid.
Petilla, however, said two Chinese will be allowed to stay on the NGCP’s Board, but they will have no hand in the technical and managerial aspect of the grid.
“By July of this year, no more Chinese will be running the grid technically. However, two persons will remain in their capacity as board of directors,” he said.
With the directive, Petilla said at least 18 Chinese are expected to be out from the NGCP as they are already “overstaying” and their stay will no longer be extended.
Petilla issued the statement after Santiago exposed that the NGCP, which is the core or the heart of the electric power industry, is infected by a “national security virus” because of the presence of the “overstaying” Chinese.
However, Petilla said the country should not be “paranoid” about the presence of China in the country’s power sector.
China has shares in the power grids of other countries such as Austria, Brazil, Portugal and Germany, he added.
“They own the grid in several countries not only in the Philippines. If we are paranoid about it, why is Austria not,” said Petilla, adding that China controls 25 percent of Austria’s power.