Gov’t urged to review NGCP’s systems operation for transparency

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/8 March) –There is a need for the government to review “very carefully, very deeply” the systems operation of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) for transparency in the midst of the power crisis facing Mindanao anew, Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., said.

Bioco told reporters Friday the NGCP ought to be more transparent about its operations after the Feb. 27 incident when Mindanao experienced an island-wide blackout, which up to now is still not explained by NGCP.

“(What) we can get from that incident is that we can easily be sabotaged,” he added.

Bioco said what “prevented the public from reacting is that NGCP has not given a detailed explanation on the matter.

“We do not know at our level because we were not given the right information. We don’t have enough information especially from the NGCP,” he added.

Felix Vergara, member of the board of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco), also told reporters the NGCP should be transparent and should send technical personnel to a proposed multi-sectoral power monitoring group in the province.

One of the functions of the proposed group, Vergara said, is to forecast power interruptions in the
Mindanao grid.

The Department of Energy (DOE), in a statement on February 28, vowed to strengthen the coordination, monitoring and even upgrading of the power systems “not only in Mindanao but also of the entire country as well to avoid such incident from happening again.”

In responding to queries from the media on NGCP’s explanation, the firm forwarded the statement from the DOE on February 28.

Elizabeth Ladaga, of the NGCP Mindanao corporate communication office, told MindaNews on the phone earlier that an investigation is still ongoing and it is “not going to be easy,”

She cited that the DOE will be the one to announce the findings after tasking the National Power Corp. (Napocor), National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) and the NGCP to closely monitor the power situation in Mindanao as the investigation on the root cause of the system-wide shutdown is underway.

“Currently, the DOE and TransCo are gathering all the facts to validate the reports from NGCP, Napocor and IPPs (independent power producers). NGCP and Napocor were tasked to reconcile their data and provide their respective loggers, which contain the recorded sequence of events. NGCP and Napocor shall be conducting technical evaluations of the condition of the switchyard and the power plants, of which Transco is tasked to interpret the results,” the DOE said in a February 28 advisory, which the NGCP emailed to reporters.

At 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 27, the NGCP announced that power transmission service in Mindanao was back to normal

But NGCP has remained mum on the reason behind the outage aside from saying that they are still “determining the cause and will issue a statement when investigation is completed.”

Power outage persisted in parts of the island after one of the Agus hydro plants and the STEAG coal-fired power plant in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental crashed during the Feb. 27 blackout in Mindanao. The damage brought rotational brownouts of six to eight hours in some areas.

Bioco expressed concern that most of the top officials of NGCP are from China, although he admitted that “it may not be related to the problem that we have now,” referring to the power crisis facing Mindanao.

He added that aside from the need for NGCP to be more open, leadership in the firm is “another issue with a service as critical as the national grid, which is the backbone of the industrial sector of the whole country.”

Bioco cited that in the Supreme Court’s hearing of a Meralco case, the justices raised the issue about NGCP’s top Chinese officials.

“Putting (them on) something as vital as the national grid is a very delicate matter – a national security risk,” he said, adding “how come this escaped the national security adviser?”

“If we put it on the level of national security, we cannot take risks,” Bioco said.

According to its website, in 2008 the consortium of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp., Calaca High Power Corp., and State Grid Corp. of China won the franchise to operate, maintain, and
further expand the power grid “in the biggest government auction conducted in efforts to reform the local power sector.”

Republic Act 9511, signed into law on December 1, 2008, granted NGCP the franchise to operate, manage, and expand the electric transmission business of the country.

The Franchise Law, a product of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, authorized NGCP to handle the transmission grid for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years, for a total of a 50-year franchise.

RA 9511 subjected NGCP to the regulation and policies of the Energy Regulatory Commission in the conduct of its operations. NGCP is also expected to report regularly to Congress to ensure the compliance with regulators and related laws, the website added.(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)