China can shut off country’s electricity at any time – Philippines warned
It has now emerged that the Philippines’ power grid is under the full control of the Chinese government and could be shut off in time of conflict.
According to an internal report prepared for lawmakers seen by CNN, China’s State Grid Corporation has a 40% stake in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), a private consortium that has operated the country’s power lines since 2009.
Philippine leaders have now called for an urgent review of the arrangement this month after the report claimed that only Chinese engineers had access to key elements of the system.
Further, power in the Philippines could in theory be deactivated remotely on Beijing’s orders.
The report, prepared by a government body and provided to CNN, warned that the system was currently “under the full control” of the Chinese government, which has the “full capability to disrupt national power systems.”
“Our national security is completely compromised due to the control and proprietary access given by the local consortium partner to the Chinese government,” the report warned.
In a statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “China’s State Grid Corporation participates in projects run by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines as a partner of local companies.”
“The Philippines is a neighbor and important partner of China’s. We support Chinese companies conducting business in the Philippines in accordance with laws and regulations to expand mutual benefits and win-win cooperation,” the statement added.
“We hope certain individuals in the Philippines view such bilateral cooperation with an open mind as well as an objective and fair attitude. They shouldn’t over-worry or even fabricate things out of thin air.”
Concerns over potential Chinese interference in the Philippine energy system have dogged the arrangement since it was first agreed a decade ago.
The NGCP handles the distribution of electricity across the Philippines, linking power plants and consumers throughout the country.
According to the report, they also supply almost 78% of households in the country of over 105 million.
It was privatized in 2009, with China’s state Grid Corporation taking a major stake, as well as providing staff to help run the systems in the Philippines.
According to the report provided to CNN, the technology upon which the grid is based has increasingly been switched over to Huawei products, which the report claims are “completely proprietary” and can only be operated by Chinese engineers.
In particular, the report warns the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system used to monitor substations, transformers and other electrical assets is completely dependent on Huawei technology. “None of the local engineers are train(ed) nor certified to operate the system,” the report said.
Huawei did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
The company has been dogged this year by accusations that it poses a national security risk, with Washington largely blocking it from expanding 5G offerings in the US and pushing allies to do the same.
Huawei has consistently said that it is a private company and does not give the Chinese government any access to or control over its technology.
Other systems within the Philippine national grid were also provided and largely operated by Chinese companies, the internal report said, including submarine cables linking power stations across islands, and key control apparatus, some of which are operated by engineers in China over the internet.
It described the system as “operated by foreign nationals (Chinese) at critical access levels,” adding that “critical system operations are all under the control of foreign nationals — locally and offshore.”
The report urged lawmakers to return control and oversight of the key power systems to the Philippine government.
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