BIZ BUZZ: Rising ERC-NGCP tensions | Inquirer Business

BIZ BUZZ: Rising ERC-NGCP tensions

/ 02:22 AM November 18, 2022

The management of National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) can’t help but feel embattled nowadays, especially with the new set of leaders of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) recently issuing an adverse decision against the firm—and with more expected to come, Biz Buzz hears.

But after behaving meekly and acting like a punching bag of the Department of Energy under the Duterte administration, it looks like the bosses at the NGCP have finally decided to respond to the attacks against the company and, as such, have taken off their gloves.

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Last week, NGCP president Anthony Almeda wrote ERC chair Monalisa Dimalanta to raise the issue of a hacking ring that was busted in India, specifically the office of auditing and advisory firm Deloitte, where one of its employees was found to be the leader of a global hacking ring.

What does a hacking ring in India have to do with the ERC-NGCP face off?

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Well, not too long ago, the ERC ordered NGCP to open its computer systems to an audit by an external, third party purportedly to ensure that nothing was amiss in the workings of the grid operator. In particular, ERC wanted to test how vulnerable NGCP’s computer systems would be to hackers.

NGCP resisted, but ERC insisted. And ERC prevailed. But NGCP wanted a third party contractor to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to prevent them from spilling whatever trade or operational secrets they would learn during the audit to other parties.

The third party operator refused to sign an NDA, saying the existing agreement between NGCP and ERC was enough. But NGCP wasn’t having any of it and, after a back-and-forth exchange of increasingly testy letters, the external auditor commissioned by the ERC finally agreed to sign a separate NDA.

That external auditor was Deloitte India to which Deloitte Philippines subcontracted the highly technical audit of NCGP cyber defenses—the same Deloitte India office which was recently exposed in the Indian press of having harbored an employee who was also the “mastermind” of a global computer hack.

Oh, but did ERC bother to inform NGCP that the auditor it contracted to examine the latter’s computer defenses was found to have harbored a global hacker? Nope. NGCP found out about it from the press.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of our [operational technology] network to transmission grid operations,” Almeda wrote Dimalanta. “We had hoped that all decisions and activities in relation to the cybersecurity audit currently being undertaken were done with a special view to this criticality. In engaging Deloitte Philippines, and its counterpart in India, for the [vulnerability and penetration testing] activities, their integrity and credibility were vetted by the ERC.”

“We have not, to date, been informed of this potential breach in security in Deloitte,” Almeda added. “An immediate disclosure was not only appropriate but necessary to protect the integrity of our systems.

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“The minute the potential breach was discovered, we should have been advised so that we could have conducted mitigating activities,” he lamented.

Indeed, why would a hostile ERC even want to help NGCP in this regard, right?

— Daxim L. Lucas

Antonio’s at PGA showroom

Fans of the culinary creations of Chef Antonio “Tony Boy” Escalante need not drive anymore to the Tagaytay area starting December this year, as a branch of the popular Antonio’s Restaurant is set to open at the spanking new PGA Cars Lifestyle Centre along Edsa near Ortigas, the first of its kind in Asia-Pacific that will feature “special” models of top-of-the-line auto brands.

Biz Buzz sources said Benedicto Coyiuto will be a partner in the new Antonio’s Restaurant that will surely appeal to the sophisticated taste of the target market of PGA Cars, the sole importer and distributor of Porsche and Audi automobiles in the Philippines.

The PGA Cars Lifestyle Centre is envisioned to be a state of the art showroom befitting the luxury vehicles that belong to the Coyiuto group of companies, including Bentley and Lamborghini.

The current showrooms will be kept, but the PGA Cars Lifestyle Centre will be a destination for those who want to check out the limited edition models such as the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Huracan.

So while checking out the latest models or having their current ones serviced, they may as well have some steak and wine at Antonio’s, which will, of course, be ready to welcome those who just want to enjoy what Antonio’s has to offer.

—Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Recession-proof gambling

Gambling is proving a strong recession-proof segment as shown by the recent numbers of Bingo-games operator Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LR).

The company, owned by tycoon Eusebio “Yosi” Tanco and politician Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, bounced back strongly from the pandemic slump. This was partly thanks to the ban on “e-sabong” that suddenly left droves of Filipinos without a gambling outlet.

As of September, LR’s profits jumped 137 percent to over P172 million—reversing a P465 million loss—while revenues surged 750 percent to P2.67 billion.

It’s no surprise savvy investors who made early bets on the stock profited handsomely as LR’s share price rose … and kept rising two months ago.

It has since returned a lot of those gains. Investors, especially holders who bought at the top, are hoping the income report was not a “sell on news” event and the stock could continue defying gravity.

—Miguel R. Camus
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TAGS: Biz Buzz, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), gambling, NGCP, PGA
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