TransCo questions existence of telecoms equipment in NGCP sites

MANILA — The national broadband program should become a reality in six months to one year, National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) president and chief executive officer, Atty. Melvin Matibag said Thursday.

In a press briefing held at the Department of Energy (DOE) Media Center, Matibag, armed with a power point presentation, showed reporters documents and photographs of an ongoing decommissioning of what appears to be telecommunications facilities by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

According to the documents and photos presented by Matibag to the media, the NGCP is apparently already in possession of telecommunications equipment encased in closed, air-conditioned container vans that are already in place in at least 75 NGCP sites around the country.

He emphasized that these facilities and equipment were installed without the consent of both TransCo and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM).

”We never forbade them from acquiring equipment. Our point is that they should have asked our permission,” Matibag said, noting that despite TransCo’s efforts to conduct inspections on NGCP sites where the telecommunications equipment are situated, they were always denied access and the contents of the air-conditioned containers were never revealed.

According to the Transco chief, the NGCP had taken an adverse stance on allowing the government under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to use NGCP’s transmission assets for the “iGovernment Philippines” project in 2011.

This project would have enabled the government to set up a secure, shared network for the deployment of government information systems, facilitated disaster response and provided connectivity to government agencies, to name a few.

After several requests since the previous Transco president, Rolando Bacani, and even when the new administration took over, the NGCP maintained that they should have exclusive use of the existing fiber optic network.

Matibag emphasized that the government still owns the transmission facilities and therefore, under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA of 2001), the government should earn from these facilities.

Under Section 26 of the EPIRA Law covering distribution-related businesses, a portion of the net income derived from such undertaking using assets that form part of the rate base, shall be used to reduce its distribution wheeling charges, as determined by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Part of this net income should be used to reduce power rates by lowering the transmission cost.

”If we get hold of those broadband facilities and use it to earn income for the public, electricity costs should be lower,” Matibag said.

”High electricity costs are not always the fault of the distribution or generating companies. Transmission cost accounts for almost 20 percent of the total electric bill.”

Matibag also indicated that the NGCP is in violation of provisions in the concession agreement, which state that the NGCP cannot enter into any business other than the transmission of electricity, without the consent of PSALM.

Secondly, he said, the NGCP cannot maintain separate audited accounts for each related business or maintain account as if it were a separate company.

”We don’t want expenses that will be shouldered by the people,” said Matibag. Abs Abando/