"National security and public interest should take precedence."
Sophisticated cyber crimes are escalating these days. Take for example the latest cyberattack against a major fuel pipeline in the United States last month. This set off a panic-buying frenzy in gas stations and jacked up gas prices, an added burden amid the pandemic. In the past, we only watched these stressful scenes depicted in movies. In this day and age, however, cyber crimes are an unfortunate reality and can be far-reaching. They can even cripple a country’s economy.
If a superpower like the United States is susceptible to high-profile security breaches, we can surmise ours to be vulnerable as well, including a possible inside attack from within the power grid. This is just one of the reasons why I have a long-standing clamor for the nationalization of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).
It is imperative that critical infrastructure like those of the energy industry be never put under the full control and ownership of foreign entities. The Constitution itself is replete with protective provisions against such a scenario to avert possible national security perils.
Calls for the government to take over NGCP operations were once more raised last year. To refresh your memory, two crucial pieces of information regarding NGCP were heatedly discussed in a legislative hearing in February 2020. First, that the NGCP was attacked “a hundred times in just two weeks.” Second, controversy over its foreign ownership resurfaced as the State Grid Corporation of China reportedly has a 40 percent stake in the consortium. Information that a Chinese national appears to be at the helm as Chief Technical Officer aggravates the situation further.
Security risks are expected to become more heightened and frequent as we increasingly rely on digital services. This perhaps requires a more aggressive government undertaking to identify all known security threats in our critical infrastructures such as the energy sector, beefing up the security grid, and eliminating them as quickly as possible. The public should likewise be hyper vigilant in reporting these cyber threats.
I trust that national security and public interest should take precedence in this NGCP ownership discourse. This is why as far back in 2017, when I was the Minority Leader in Congress, I filed a bill that exclusively limits the ownership and operation of NGCP to Filipinos. My esteemed wife, Congresswoman Aleta Suarez, has filed House Bill No. 4672 in this Congress as well to support this weighty cause.
Avid readers of this column know that this matter is close to my heart and I have written on this numerous times in recent years.
Thus I am reiterating my call for NGCP to be placed under government ownership. I’m glad that the Department of Energy finally considered this move. Once acted upon, NGCP as state-owned will be a significant first step in ensuring our power grid’s control and maintenance and safeguarding our national security and welfare.
It’s high time that we Filipinos take back and exclusively rein in the NGCP—, and not on paper alone.