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Philippines’ Marcos Backs Probe on China-owned Power Grid Company

May 19, 2023 Philippines Events & Announcements

MANILA — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has backed a probe to determine whether the government should take over the country’s sole power grid operator, which is partly owned by China.

Marcos “agreed” with a Philippine senator’s proposal to conduct a “comprehensive study or hold hearings” on the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, in part due to national security concerns.

“If necessary, the government will take back control of the entity,” the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement late Tuesday.

Senate Committee on Energy chair Raffy Tulfo wants to “assess the performance of the NGCP, which has also raised concerns among several other senators,” the statement added.

Tulfo also “aimed to examine the security aspect, particularly on who truly controls the corporation.” The senator on Tuesday said there was “an intel report divulging that China has the capability to remotely access the country’s national grid and sabotage it.”

The president’s backing ramps up pressure on the NGCP, which is being blamed for recent power interruptions. The disruptions, which were also due to forced outages in some power plants, have revived calls for increased scrutiny of the NGCP.

The NGCP is 40% owned by the State Grid Corporation of China, the technical partner of a consortium that won a bid to privatize the Philippines’ power transmission infrastructure in 2007. The other 60% is controlled by Filipino tycoons.

Manila and Beijing, which are keen to improve economic ties, are embroiled in a long-standing territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Bilateral relations were recently rocked by a decision from Marcos to allow U.S. military access to Philippine bases near Taiwan.

Asked to comment, NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said the company is “ready to answer any and all questions raised concerning how we do business.”

“We are confident that the improvements we have introduced and the 300 billion pesos ($5.34 billion) we have invested [in] strengthening the transmission system will be recognized,” Alabanza said.

“We have faith in the legal process and we will continue to comply with all lawful directives, and pursue our mandate faithfully,” she added.

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