Philippine national grid denies claims China could shut off power

Firm rejects claim that Beijing could use Chinese shareholder to pull plug over maritime disputes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 3:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 7:58am

The Philippines' national electricity supplier has dismissed claims by a former senior official that China has the capability to sabotage the country's power grid.

Rafael Alunan, a former interior and local government secretary, warned such action was among a range of actions China could take in retaliation for Manila's move to seek international arbitration of its maritime territorial disputes with Beijing.

Alunan said a government official had told him of the possible threat.

The National Grid Corporation (NGCP) provides the infrastructure for power companies to provide electricity to their customers. State Grid Corporation of China owns 40 per cent of the corporation.

Corporation spokeswoman Cynthia Alabanza denied the network was at risk of being shut down.

"The State Grid Corporation of China does not have control. It does not in any way influence anything beyond the technological aspect of the business," she said.

But Alunan repeated his claims yesterday.

"Right now, according to my source, we are potentially vulnerable to remotely controlled sabotage. When, depends on China's calculus," he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.

Charles Jose, its new spokesman and former consul general in Shanghai, said: "The Department of Energy is in the best position to explain or comment on the participation of the State Grid of China in the power transmission business in the Philippines."

But a senior government official told the South China Morning Post the government was "quite concerned" about a Chinese state-owned company controlling the technical aspects of the national grid.

Four senior officials of the State Grid of China sit on the NGCP board.

Alunan declined to identify the senior government official with whom he discussed possible sanctions that Beijing might impose on Manila.

Alunan, a co-convenor of the West Philippine Sea Coalition that has staged protests and boycotts against China over the South China Sea dispute, said the first sanction could be "stopping the flow of raw materials needed by our manufacturers and exporters".

"The second possible action that China might take against us could be in the form of sabotage … I was told that the grid could be shut down remotely," he said.