China, hackers can control energy transmission, says Transco official

NGCP, MTRCB partner in transmission line safety campaign

China and possibly hackers have the ability to control the Philippines’ power transmission system, according to Melvin Matibag, President of National Transmission Company (Transco).

He revealed this during the deliberation of the proposed P2.3-billion budget of the Department of Energy (DOE) for 2020, according to a Manila Bulletin report

He added that  China and hackers can do this through the installation of remote monitoring and control system at transmission lines under the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

The remote control system was introduced by State Grid of China, a corporation owned by the Chinese government, after it bought 40 percent of shares of the privately owned NGCP.

NGCP manages and operates Transco’s nationwide transmission system, however Transco still owns the transmission assets.

During the DOE’s budget deliberation, Senator Risa Hontiveros asked if China or other outside countries could change the country’s power transmission by remote control.

Matibag said this is possible due to modern technology in telecommunications and software.

Hontiveros said government entities are not given regular and full access to the transmission facilities, which endangers the country’s security.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian defended the DOE budget, with assurances from both the DOE and Transco officials that there are safety measures in place such as Filipinos will supervise the transmission lines, not Chinese personnel.

The energy officials added that in the event of sabotage through remote control, the President has the power to order a takeover, saying that there are available technologies to bring back electricity within 24 to 48 hours.

This was discussed during President Duterte’s Cabinet meetings with the Cabinet security cluster, they added.

Gatchalian emphasized that Transco is the owner of the transmission assets and is doing a lot of technical regulatory.

“Hindi lang operations, hindi lang chini-check kung sino nagma-manage kundi tinitingnan din ang economic and technical aspect. Rest assured that the government is on top of this concern(Transco is not only operations, but is checking who is managing it and is also looking at the economic and technical aspect),” he was quoted in a Manila Bulletin report.