Senator Win Gatchalian has implored the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) anew to issue fresh advisory that will help clear the confusion over exorbitant electricity bills amid numerous complaints, especially that some areas have now been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
During Thursday’s Committee of the Whole hearing, Gatchalian grilled the DOE and ERC over the power consumers’ bill shock this month, saying that the controversy has overshadowed the two agency’s achievements and efforts in ensuring the stability of the country’s power sector and the constant delivery of electricity in every household during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Gatchalian has hit Meralco’s confusing billing statement for May, which he pointed out was the root cause of the confusion for many power consumers. He noted that his office has started initial inquiries on whether or not Meralco has taken advantage of the current pandemic situation to the detriment of the Filipino consumers.
“Marami sa ating kababayan ang nagkaroon ng bill shock noong lumabas po yung May billing nila. Maraming nagalit, marami ang na-confuse. Sinasabi nila, nawalan na nga sila ng trabaho tapos pababayaran pa ng napakalaking bill,” he said.
In his May 19 statement, the lawmaker reminded Meralco of its obligation to follow the ERC advisories on the proper computation of electricity bills and correct payment dates of bills due within the ECQ period.
The ERC has already issued two advisories deferring payment of electricity bill falling due within the ECQ, without interest, penalties, fees and other charges – April 15 advisory covering the period March 16, 2020 to April 30, 2020 and May 5 advisory extending the deferment period until May 15, 2020.
Furthermore, Gatchalian pointed out that the twin ERC advisories state that the cumulative amount of electricity bill due within the ECQ shall be amortized in four equal monthly installments, payable in the four succeeding billing months following the end of the ECQ.
The senator said that the power sector should have prepared for the MECQ without leaving consumers confused and displeased.
In response to Gatchalian’s queries, ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera informed the Senate that the commission has already instructed Meralco to separate electricity bills falling within ECQ and MECQ. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, on the other hand, told the senator that Meralco should detail its computation and explain the excessive billing statement.
Gatchalian stressed that an advisory will properly guide consumers on payment of electricity bills.
“Kung ang regulator ay hindi maintindihan itong Meralco bill, malamang mas lalo na si Juan dela Cruz. I would like to urge the regulator and the department to find a solution to this. Marami na po talagang galit,” he ended.