Senators on Monday called for a review of the operations of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) after finding out that the management of the power transmission operator is in Chinese hands.

Following an inquiry, Senate energy committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian said NGCP should agree to an audit or have its franchise reviewed by Congress.

Gatchalian said he would move for the revocation of the NGCP franchise if the private firm was found to have violated the 1987 Constitution, which requires that management of public utilities be in the hands of Filipinos, and foreign ownership limited to 40 percent.

The NGCP chief technical officer, for instance, is Chinese, he noted. NGCP has also failed to conduct an initial public offering of its shares, a franchise requirement, despite good stock market conditions.

“The Department of Energy is ready to conduct an audit. They have long wanted to start this,” Gatchalian said.

Sen. Richard Gordon pointed to the possibility of China accessing the dark fiber assets of the state-owned National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) and managed by the NGCP, to tap into conversations in the country.

Gordon said that the NGCP appeared to be run by the Chinese, even if the State Grid Corp. of China only owned 40 percent.

He warned that the Chinese could fire up the 6,154 kilometer-long unused fiber-optic cables spanning Luzon to Mindanao, to tap into conversations and control communications.

“It is paramount for the government to protect the interest of the country. Because not only can (China) shut us down and control our power, control our economy with that, they could also listen to our conversations and put us in a dark line. We should protect the country from a situation where it has no control,” he pointed out.

The firm told senators it had thwarted about 100 attacks on the power grid.

The NGCP consortium holds the 25-year concession contract and 50-year franchise to operate the country’s power transmission network. Filipino owners are split 30-30 between Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. led by Henry Sy, Jr. and Calaca High Power Corp. led by Robert Coyiuto, Jr., giving the State Grid Corp. of China, the technical partner, the upper hand. (