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Hontiveros flags NGCP’s spending of over P1.12B for entertainment, ads, PR

/ 07:33 PM June 17, 2021
Senator Risa Hontiveros on NGCP expenses

Sen. Risa Hontiveros expresses concern over the rotating power outages during the hybrid hearing conducted by the Committee on Energy. Screen grab/Senate PRIB file photo

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday questioned the over P1.12 billion the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) spent for advertisements, entertainment and public relations purposes.

“It was puzzling to see items such as advertisements, representation and entertainment in NGCP’s expenditures. Not only that, they also spent almost half a billion pesos on them. Ano’ng kinalaman nito sa transmission [How is this connected to the transmission]? Are these expenses a critical part of their business?” the senator said.

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In a Senate energy committee hearing on the country’s power supply, Hontiveros said these expenses should not be shouldered by consumers as they are not critical to power transmission operations.

This, after she revealed that in 2017 and 2018, the NGCP spent an accumulated amount of over P369.5 million on “Representation and Entertainment,” more than P79.2 million was spent for “Advertising” and over P672.9 for “Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility.”

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Table presented by Sen. Risa Hontiveros during a hearing of the Senate energy committee on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Table presented by Sen. Risa Hontiveros during a hearing of the Senate energy committee on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Courtesy of Sen. Hontiveros’ office)

The figures are based on the submissions of the NGCP to the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Hontiveros.

“I wonder kung ordinaryong konsyumer din ba ang nagbabayad nito under the Energy Regulatory Commission regulation? Ipinasa rin ba ito sa ating mga kababayan? Parang hindi naman yan makatarungan,” she added.

(I wonder if ordinary consumers are paying these expenses under the Energy Regulatory Commission regulation? Are these at the expense of our countrymen? I think this is unjust.)

Hontiveros emphasized that while NGCP has been “spending big” on ads and entertainment, the national power grid has been “negligent” in getting the transmission development plan approved and failing to properly carry out grid improvement projects.

“May tinira ba silang pera para ma-upgrade ang national grid natin? Nasunod ba nila ang Grid Development Plan [Did they leave some money to upgrade our national grid? Did they follow the Grid Development Plan]?” she asked.

Hontiveros noted that the NGCP has 71 delayed and 83 uncompleted transmission projects.

“Mukhang sa ibang bagay sila abala at ang mga dapat nilang sinserbisyuhan, taon-taon na lang nagtitiis sa blackouts at pass on charges,” she added.

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(It seems they are too busy at other things and the people they are supposed to provide service to are suffering yearly to blackouts and pass-on charges.)

“There are so many grid projects that were delayed. So why isn’t the NGCP spending more on maintaining and upgrading the transmission grid?” she further asked.

Last year, Hontiveros also said that NGCP’s shareholders have already divided among themselves a total of P187.8 billion in corporate dividends in just ten years of their 25-year contract to run the country’s power transmission system.

Hontiveros has repeatedly called on the Energy Regulatory Commission to immediately peg a more conscionable rate of the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) or the return a company expects on its capital investment.

She said that NGCP enjoys an “excessive rate” of 15 percent as opposed to the global average rate of 7 percent and this contributes to the cost of electricity consumers have to pay.

“Huwag tayong magbulag-bulagan sa mga isyung ito at hayaan na lang gatasan nang gatasan ang mga Pilipino. Isa lang ang malinaw sa ngayon, kailangan na nating simulang pag-aralan kung paano bawiin sa NGCP ang control ng ating power grid,” she added.

(Let’s not turn a blind eye on these issues and let the Filipino people become their milking cow. There is only one this that is clear at the moment: We need to start thinking how to remove from the NGCP the control of our power grid.)

In response, NGCP spokesperson Atty. Cynthia Alabanza told the Senate panel that all of NGCP’s expenditures and spending are “highly regulated and strongly regulated.”

She explained NGCP’s Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility projects are “geared toward helping our host communities and project acceptance so these are all expenditures working towards helping the communities who host our facilities.”

“The corporation is actually spending 340 percent more than the government ever did. We have already spent P225.7 billion on grid improvements since we took over. This has led to massive improvement of the grid,” she added.

Albanza said the NGCP will submit an explanation to the senator and the committee, noting that it was her first time seeing the figures presented by Hontiveros.

Hontiveros then asked the NGCP to submit to the committee a copy of its audited financial statements for the last five years.

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