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To ERC: Penalize distribution utilities that will fail to comply with power advisory

Senator Win Gatchalian has implored the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to penalize distribution utilities (DUs) that fail to comply with its advisories and directives aimed at alleviating the financial difficulties of Filipino power consumers given strict quarantine measures.


MANDALUYONG CITY, Philippines – City lights dot and criss cross a residential area, with Mandaluyong’s business districts in the background, part of Meralco’s franchise area that “covers the core of the country’s industrial, commercial, and population centers.” Senator Win Gatchalian wants distribution utility firms (DUs), such as Meralco, to be accountable for non-compliance with government directives, which eventually resulted in the bill shock of many power consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, grilled ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera over the actions that the Commission has taken to hold DUs, such as the country’s largest distribution utility Meralco, accountable for their non-compliance with the agency’s directives, which eventually resulted in the bill shock of many power consumers.

“What action or steps have you taken to penalize those who don’t follow your advisories and to help our consumers get refunds?” the lawmaker asked during Monday’s Senate Committee on Energy hearing.

“The advisories are there to help our constituents. But if the utilities don’t follow these advisories, then that spirit of assistance will be futile,” he said.

Gatchalian pointed out that his committee received at least 204 complaints from 179 complainants. Out of the 179 complainants, 176 are complaints against Meralco and three are against the electric cooperatives.

Even Senator Gatchalian himself complained about his own billing statement for the month of May, pointing out that Meralco failed to explain that the adjustments had already been made when he was billed with Php 23,000 for his accumulated electricity consumption from March to May.

The violations that Meralco committed include failure to clearly indicate the word “estimate” on the bill, failure to provide line item for monthly installment, and the collection of the Universal Charges- Environmental Charges (UC-EC) and the Feed-in-Tariff Allowance (FIT-ALL) during the period specified in ERC advisories, according to the senator.

Citing a report from the ERC, Gatchalian said that at least six distribution utilities have been found to be in violation of the ERC advisories. These erring distribution utilities are Olongapo Electricity Distribution Company (OECD); Misamis Oriental II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (MORESCO II); Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO II); Central Negros Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CENECO); Iloilo III Electric Cooperative, Inc. (IIoilo III); and Batangas II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BATELEC II).

“Marami ang hindi sumusunod sa advisory ng ERC. I would like to encourage the ERC and take a proactive role in looking at the compliance. Marami kaming nakukuhang problema na hindi sumusunod sa advisories,” Gatchalian said.

“Ako ay talagang dismayado sa mga power utilities dahil dapat sila ay tumutulong sa mga power consumers subalit patuloy pa ring nangongolekta ng hindi tama. Dapat silang panagutin kung hindi sila mag-comply,” he added.