Consumers can heave a sigh of relief, insofar as payment for their most recent utility bills are concerned, as the recently signed ‘Bayanihan to Recover as One Act’ or ‘Bayanihan 2’ provides for a 30-day moratorium.
Senator Win Gatchalian said a provision in the measure assures a 30-day grace period for payment of utility bills covering those falling within the period of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). For now, Iligan City, Bacolod City, and Lanao del Sur are the provinces that have remained under MECQ until September 30.
The senator said that the payment of interests, penalties, and other charges would likewise be waived in the covered period.
“This provision in the bill will lessen the financial strain of the already overburdened Filipino families living in areas under ECQ or MECQ. For most of them, payment for utility bills eats up a big percentage of their monthly income and this is a relief to those having trouble making payments due to financial difficulties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Gatchalian said.
The senator introduced the provision in the measure directing all institutions providing electric, water, telecommunications, and other similar utilities to implement a minimum of 30-day grace period for the payment of bills.
Gatchalian clarified that after the grace period, the unpaid bills of residential, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and cooperatives may be settled on a staggered basis payable in not less than three monthly installments, subject to the procedural requirements of the concerned regulatory agencies.
Gatchalian, even before Congress started deliberating on Bayanihan 2, had initiated moves to protect electricity consumers during the ECQ period earlier this year by urging the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to direct the distribution utilities (DUs) to allow deferred payment of bills since mid-March when the quarantine took effect.
His call was immediately heeded by the ERC, easing the burden of affected consumers whose payables are piling up.
“Malaking bagay ang ‘Bayanihan 2’ lalo na doon sa mga Pilipinong nawalan ng hanapbuhay o nabawasan ang kita dahil sa pinaigting na quarantine protocols ng gobyerno,” the senator said.
“Para sa mga arawan ang kita, mababawasan ang kanilang mga aalalahanin sa kanilang mga buwanang gastusin at makakatulong ito sa unti-unting pagbangon sa hamon na kinakaharap nating lahat,” he added.
Bayanihan 2, which was signed by the President Friday night, grants emergency powers to the Chief Executive after the ‘Bayanihan to Heal as One Act’ (Bayanihan 1) lapsed last June. It will be in effect until December 19, 2020, in time for Congress’ Christmas recess.