MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros has expressed her skepticism about the effectiveness of a memorandum of understanding entered into by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), supposedly to prevent cyberattacks on the nation’s energy infrastructure.
Such a partnership, according to Hontiveros, will do little to lessen the risks to the nation’s safety and security.
“While I agree that the NGCP-NICA deal ‘was a good step in answering the challenge’ of cybersecurity in the country’s power system, there are critical strategic issues that urgently need further clarity. During the last Congress, questions and doubts about national security relating to power grid operations were extensively discussed up to the level of executive sessions in the Senate,” Hontiveros said.
The Senator wanted to clarify first whether our government has regained actual full control of the national grid system operation despite China’s State Grid Corporation holding a substantial 40 percent stake in the country’s power grid.
“I stand by my assertion that our power grid will continue to be a target of cyber and other threats from China and other foreign countries for as long as it is not fully managed and secured by our very own government. I would like to know if the current government has assumed full control over the national grid,” Hontiveros stated.
She further argued that it would be pointless to create the strongest firewall to prevent attacks from the outside when a potential and serious threat lies precisely within the grid’s “structure of operations”.
“Paano mo po-protektahan mula sa outside attacks kung yung banta ay nasa loob mismo? The fact that China has control over the NGCP continues to worry me. Walang kwenta ang firewall kung ang Great Wall ay nandito na. When our power grid operator is owned by a foreign entity, whether in whole or in part, it will be more difficult for the government to defend it from cyber attacks,” the Senator stated.
Hontiveros previously urged for a national security audit to review and evaluate the performance of the NGCP as well as investigate reports that China may control and remotely shut down the country’s power transmission system.
“May audit bang naisagawa kaugnay ng isyung ito? As far as I recall, during the previous hearings in the Senate, the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission said they would conduct a thorough audit of the NGCP’s security issues. Pwede sanang batayan ito ng MOU sa pagitan ng NGCP at NICA,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros also said that it is hard to trust the government of China because of its continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
She noted that with rising geopolitical tensions, including military and economic confrontations between great powers, national security issues may eventually take ascendancy on the public agenda.
“China and the Philippines have unresolved conflicts over the West Philippine Sea. The last thing we need is a cyber attack from within–which may possibly be launched from the China headquarters of this state-owned company,” the senator added.
“We can only hope that NGCP will genuinely collaborate with NICA and that whatever intelligence information they obtain will be used for the benefit of the country rather than to give China an advantage,” she concluded.