Senator Win Gatchalian urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and distribution utilities (DUs), such as Meralco, to heed the call of the public to further extend the ‘no disconnection’ policy for low-income consumers at least until the end of the government-imposed General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
Meralco’s “no disconnection” policy was originally set to end last December 31 but was extended only until January 31, 2021. The policy, which covers households consuming 200 kilowatt hour (kWh) per month and below, benefits over three million of its customers.
“Except for a few, who are offering essential goods and services, the majority of businesses are not operating in their full capacity and unemployment remains to be a problem. Everyone is still struggling financially,” said Gatchalian.
The November 2020 nationwide survey on COVID-19 and its impact on the Filipinos conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc. showed that 58 percent of the 2,400 surveyed either lost their job or source of income. Hardest-hit are those belonging to the Class D and E as 58 percent and 64 percent of them respectively ended up having no means of livelihood. More than half of the respondents from Mindanao or 57 percent experienced a reduction in salary or income while 53 percent of those from Class A, B and C nationwide also experienced losing a job or source of income last year.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that as of October last year, unemployed Filipinos reached 3.8 million compared to the previous year’s 2.1 million.
“Habang hindi pa humuhupa ang pandemya, patuloy pa rin sana ang pagiging maluwag ng distribution utilities (DUs) tulad ng Meralco pagdating sa pagbabayad ng kuryente. Humanitarian consideration sana ang pinaiiral upang mas matugunan ang pangangailangan ng marami,” Gatchalian said, reacting to the disconnection of power lines of Meralco customers due to unsettled bills.
“Hindi pa napapanahon para ipatupad ang nakagawiang paniningil sa due date ng bill ng kuryente lalo na sa mga low-income consumers. Kakatapos lang ng pasko at marami ang pinilit na ipagdiwang ito sa abot ng kanilang makakaya. Mas makabubuting palawigin pa ang ‘no disconnection’ policy hanggang sa matapos ang quarantine,” Gatchalian said.