TransCo queries NGCP over alleged telecoms facilities

Date issued: April 17, 2017

NATIONAL Transmission Corp. (TransCo) has asked privately-owned system operator National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) about the presence of alleged telecommunication facilities in the government’s power transmission assets, its top official said.

“I wrote a letter to NGCP asking them to explain why is it there are communication facilities which are installed in the transmission building without our permission,” said Melvin A. Matibag, TransCo president and chief executive officer, told reporters on the sidelines of a recent briefing on energy issues.

He said the letter was sent on March 28, although TransCo had yet to receive a reply before the Easter holidays.

He said TransCo’s technical personnel detected the communication facilities, the use of which his office has yet to determine. He added that TransCo was not certain about the scale of the non-power transmission assets.

“That can be used for broadband,” Mr. Matibag said when asked about his assessment of the supposed communication facilities.

“I’m not sure if the facilities are being built or have been built),” he said.

NGCP has congressional franchise to operate and maintain the country’s transmission facilities. It acquired that right after the passage of Republic Act 9136 in 2001 or the “Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001” (EPIRA). The law separated the various components of the energy sector, including power transmission, which was spun off to TransCo ahead of its turnover to the private sector through concession.

Unlike outright sale, the concession agreement allowed the government to keep ownership of the transmission assets through TransCo.

The operation, maintenance and expansion of the grid was handed over to NGCP, the consortium of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp., Calaca High Power Corp. and the State Grid Corp. of China as technical partner.

Mr. Matibag said his letter to NGCP came after a technical audit of the country’s transmission assets. Earlier this year, he said that TransCo was expanding its role in drafting the country’s transmission development plan, a task previously done largely by NGCP.

The transmission plan has become crucial in view of a government directive to hasten the interconnection of the Mindanao electricity grid to that of Visayas, which is connected to Luzon’s. NGCP earlier this year said it was targeting to complete the interconnect by end-2020 at a cost of around P52 billion.

Asked whether the concession agreement prohibits NGCP from upgrading or supplementing the transmission assets with communication facilities, Mr. Matibag said the grid operator may be allowed to do so but with the consent of TransCo. He said he plans to follow up on the letter to NGCP after the holidays.

“They should answer that,” he said. “It (the building of communication facilities) is a clear violation of the agreement if it is true.”

Mr. Matibag said in his letter, he pointed to the alleged hiring of a contractor to build the telecommunication facilities until the end of 2017. He also noted installations in some transmission substations as early as 2015.

“We would like to make it known that TransCo or the government was never made aware of such installation or construction,” he said. -- Victor V. Saulon

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