NGCP on DOE’s franchise review push: ‘We’ve done so much, we hope they will be recognized”
MANILA, Philippines— In response to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) request for Congress to review its franchise to operate and manage power transmission lines, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) has expressed its faith in the legal process and confidence that its contribution to the nation’s power systems will be recognized.
“NGCP is fully cognizant that its franchise is a privilege granted to it by government. We remain ready to answer any and all questions raised concerning how we do business,” said NGCP spokesperson Atty. Cynthia Alabanza over a Viber message.
“We are confident the improvements we have introduced and the P300 billion we have invested in strengthening the transmission system will be recognized. We have faith in the legal process, and we will continue to comply with all lawful directives and pursue our mandate faithfully,” she said.
Alabanza also mentioned NGCP had doubled the national grid’s substation capacity and remitted over P220 billion in taxes and fees.
The NGCP spokesperson added in a separate interview, “We’ve done so much, we hope they will be recognized. Given an opportunity to explain and contextualize a lot of these things, we can explain. We have faith in the government— in both executive and legislative branches— that they will be objective and will recognize what we’ve done. In the end, we trust that they will do what is best for the country.”
Alabanza also argued over 14 years since NGCP’s privatization in 2009, it has improved services, lowered transmission charges, and invested and remitted billions of pesos.
“From the time we took over, our transmission charges have gone down. What we charge the consumer per unit has gone down. You have investments— relieved ang government from the obligation to invest money. Kasi saan nila kukunin ang pera na yan? Additional taxes? Plus the Energy Regulatory Commission’s records will bear out that our services have improved,” she said.
“Remittances, better services, lower prices, funding for the government. What else do you need? Does it really matter how much money we make?” Alabanza added.
Energy Undersecretary Sharon Garin previously described NGCP’s current concession agreement as “overly generous,” saying that it is “very much in favor of the franchisee.”
Right-of-way, permitting issues behind NGCP delays
Besides blows by the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabanza also lamented several right-of-way and permitting issues faced by the NGCP, asserting these are crucial to understanding the setbacks in its power projects.
“Everyone needs us, but nobody wants us. ‘Yan yung reality (That’s the reality),” she said.
“Kailangan kami. Foundational kami for the good of the country. But every time we pass through a barangay or pass through a community, they all don’t want us. Everything from concerns on health. Paulit-ulit naming ine-explain na the electromagnetic fields generated by our transmission towers, wala yan. Napakaliit compared to what your cell phone generates. We have the DOH (Department of Health) certifications to prove that,” she added.
(We are necessary. We are foundational for the good of the country. But every time we pass through a barangay or pass through a community, they all don’t want us. Everything from concerns on health. We have explained again and again that the electromagnetic fields generated by our transmission towers are nothing to worry about. It is so small compared to what your cell phone generates. We have the DOH certifications to prove that.)
Alabanza also expressed frustration over “numerous requests for rerouting” from local government units (LGU). She shared one LGU had requested the NGCP to reroute power lines around its entire area, instead of permitting them to construct a straight line, while another began construction over land that the grid corporation had already obtained a writ of possession for the land.
“Anyone who has influence asks us to relocate. People think that we’re such bullies. But honestly, we’re the ones being bullied,” she said.
NGCP has also initiated the streamlining of permit requirements, according to its spokesperson.
Under the current local government code, LGUs can generally demand by ordinance any requirements from the NGCP they see fit.
“Kasi we have to talk to the local governments, and sometimes iba-iba ang requirements nila. So may initiative kami sa DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) years ago… I think it was during the time of President Duterte. We asked the DILG to ask for a uniform set of requirements for our permits,” she explained.
(We have to talk to the local governments, and sometimes their requirements differ. So we had an initiative with the DILG years ago. I think it was during the time of President Duterte. We asked the DILG to ask for a uniform set of requirements for our permits.)
Besides reviewing the franchise, DOE suggested the government overtake the NGCP’s projects should it fail to meet its target timelines.
This follows delays in several of the NGCP’s projects, including the 600-MW Hermosa-San Jose Line in Bataan province, that the energy department alleged could have prevented widespread power interruptions in Luzon.