by Lenie Lectura, 24 February 2015
THE Philippine government is not taking any chances.
On Monday night Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla revealed that the visas of 18 Chinese working in the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) will no longer be renewed.
This, after Sen. Miriam Santiago on Sunday said that the Philippines has been “infected by a national security virus.” The senator was referring to the Chinese experts working at the NGCP, a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining and developing the country’s power grid. It transmits high-voltage electricity through “power superhighways” that include the interconnected system of transmission lines, towers, substations and related assets.
The consortium holds the 25-year concession to operate the country’s power transmission network and is comprised of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp., led by Henry Sy Jr., Calaca High Power Corp., led by Robert Coyiuto Jr., and the State Grid Corp. of China (SGCC) as technical partner.
SGCC sent its experts to be in charge of the technology that is currently being adopted by the country’s transmission system.
However, according to Petilla, their presence has alarmed National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia who said that power transmission grid should have been kept solely in the hands of the Philippine government.
“I understand concern of Senator Santiago. It’s also our concern. It is the job of the NSA [National Security Agency] to be paranoid. So, to reconcile, we agreed during a high-level meeting as early as second quarter of last year that there will be no Chinese nationals who will operate the national grid,” said Petilla, who added that the meeting was attended by top officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice, National Security Council and the Department of Energy.
The NGCP has yet to comment. Petilla is confident that nonrenewal of their working visas is not going to be an issue because “this has been agreed upon.” Moreover, Petilla said NGCP President Henry Sy Jr., who was present during the meeting, did not raise any objections.
The working visas of the 18 Chinese are valid up to July 2015, Petilla said. However, two Chinese board members of the NGCP will remain. “Two visas will remain in their capacity as board of directors.”
This development will not change the corporate structure of NGCP in which SGCC still owns 40 percent of NGCP.
“Management and technical are separate form ownership. They still own 40 percent. If NGCP makes money then they make money, but in terms of running the show they are not involved,” said Petilla.
Santiago alleged that the Chinese government was “intruding” into the Philippine power industry by allegedly holding 40 percent of the capital stock of the NGCP.
“It is the core or the heart of the electric power industry. The Philippine Constitution is replete with requirements of nationalism but such a vital and strategic industry such as the electric power industry is infected by a national-security virus,” Santiago said in a news statement.
Petilla said these concerns stemmed from the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea.