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Marcos: Systems vs cyberattacks on energy infrastructure needed 

THE GOVERNMENT needs to develop systems to deter possible cyberattacks on the Philippines’ energy infrastructure, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Monday.

“We are continuing to shore up our defenses when it comes to cybersecurity,” Mr. Marcos said in a speech in Malacañang after the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) signed a deal to boost cybersecurity.

“Since NGCP is a critical part of our security, of our ability to continue to function as a society, then this is an important day because now we have made more robust the defenses against any possible attacks on our power systems, on any other elements in our everyday lives that require power,” he said.

Under the deal, the NGCP will share “vital information” on energy-related security issues and provide technical advice to the NICA, which is tasked to recommend actions in safeguarding the grid agency’s transmission assets. 

Mr. Marcos said there have been fears that the involvement of any foreign entity in the power transmission system “would present a security threat to the Philippines.”

The partnership between NGCP and NICA is a “very good step towards answering that challenge,” he said.

The State Grid Corp. of China has had a 40% stake in NGCP since 2008, which has raised fears of possible Chinese interference in the country’s energy infrastructure.

In February 2020, Filipino senators expressed concern that the Philippines’ national security might have been compromised after an NGCP official disclosed that their system had been attacked “a hundred times already in just the past few weeks.”

Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros warned at the time that the Chinese could switch off the grid any time. She said China may not even need to hack into the Philippine’s transmission grid to remotely disable it given that the supervisory control and data acquisition network used to control the NGCP’s power transmission facilities is supplied by NARI Group Corp., which is also a Chinese state-owned entity.

Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos compared the conflicts caused by the industrial revolution to the problems that the world faces today due to digital technologies.

“For example, in the early 20th century in the First World War, industry was labor intensive. Hence, trench warfare,” he said. “And in the Second World War, we had industrialized our businesses, and hence, it was machinery and the production of airplanes and tanks that won the war. And now, we do our business through cyberspace.”

Mr. Marcos said the government is now “developing our cyber systems so that we are secure and so that the data that we need to collect and to disseminate are available to us.”

Boosting the country’s cybersecurity systems would also “ensure that we are able to do and handle data in a secure fashion without the risk of it being used somehow against the Philippines.”

“Let this be an example to all the other sectors that could be assessed to be at risk when it comes to cybersecurity,” Mr. Marcos said. “It is a good example for the rest of our infrastructure, and I talk about hard and soft infrastructure.”

The Marcos administration seeks to boost investments in the Philippine energy sector to attract more foreign investors. 

In January, Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla told Chinese investors the Philippine government was prioritizing the integration of renewable sources of energy into the country’s power system. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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