In times of conflict, can China shut down our power grid? – Senator Hontiveros

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Senator Risa Hontiveros has expressed concern if China could really shut down the country’s power grid.

“In times of conflict, can China shut down our power grid?,” Hontiveros asked, as the Senate Committee of Energy probed the operations of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

Hontiveros said that the country must implement better safeguards to address China’s influence over the country’s power infrastructure, given the reported use of Chinese software and equipment, as well as the previous hiring of Chinese personnel in the NGCP’s daily operations.

The Senator took notice of the State Grid Corporation of China’s 40% ownership of NGCP. “SGCC owns 40% of our grid. But SGCC is no ordinary company. It is owned by the Chinese Communist Party,” Hontiveros detailed.

“They are bound by Chinese laws to gather intelligence and report to the Chinese government. Now, paano tayo secured sa ganitong set-up? Paano sa panahon ng conflict sa pagitan ng China at ng Pilipinas, kanino sila papanig?” asked Hontiveros.

At present, Hontiveros argued, China may not even need to hack into the Philippine’s transmission grid to remotely disable it, given that the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) network used to monitor and control the NGCP’s power transmission facilities, is supplied by a Chinese state-owned entity, NARI Group Corporation (NARI).

She said that since 2009, NGCP has not been subjected to any external audit, and that the corporation has barred inspections – even by government agencies- of their operations, particularly the source code audit of the software and firmware used in the SCADA system.

“Ever since the computer system was installed in 2009, hindi nabigyan ng pansin ang importanteng cybersecurity issues dahil walang audit na nangyari,” Hontiveros said.

The hearing also took exception to Chinese nationals in the managerial position of NGCP.

“Nasa Constitution mismo, executive and management positions should always be held by Filipinos. Tapos nagkaroon ang isang Chinese national ng special visa to act as a technical officer. Alin ang mas mataas at alin ang mas dapat sundin, ang konstitusyon ba o ang isang special visa?” Hontiveros remarked.

“It is true that the Constitution and the law implement safeguards to ensure control of our power infrastructure remains in Filipino hands. However, it is clear that these safeguards are not being enforced, much to the disadvantage of the Filipino people,” she concluded./STACY ANG

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