As tropical storm Rolly wreaked havoc on the Philippines on Sunday, multisectoral coalition Sanlakas slammed the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) announcement of a selective extension of the no-disconnection period for consumers unable to settle their bills to the end of the year.
The new advisory, released by the ERC supposedly in compliance to the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) over two weeks after it was first promised, prohibits disconnection by power firms only for households consuming no more than twice the “maximum lifeline consumption level”, or 200 kWh or less per month.
“ERC’s ‘no disconnection policy’ actually allows Meralco to cut off service to those who consume more than 200 KWH even as Bayanihan 2 makes no such qualification. The ERC took its sweet time coming up with a policy that in the end is still unable to address consumers’ glaring needs. Not to disregard the relief lifeline consumers will get out of the selective advisory, but an extension of the no-disconnection period for all consumers was already the bare minimum the ERC could have done after it neglected its duty to resolve MERALCO bill shock woes.
ERC’s directive is in direct violation of Bayanihan 2,” said Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary General of Sanlakas.
According to Pedrosa, it makes no sense to limit the coverage of the advisory based on consumption levels when thousands of complaints on anomalous billings and misreading of meters have yet to be addressed.
“By the middle of October, ERC reportedly still had a pile of 55,000 consumer complaints to sort through. Yet it had the gall to tell consumers with more than 200 kWh readings to scramble for payments just two days short of the October 31 deadline. How is this advisory acceptable?” chided Pedrosa.
Sanlakas is part of the Power for People Coalition (P4P), a broad network of consumers and energy advocates pushing for #TigilBayad through an online petition seeking a moratorium on Meralco ECQ bills until after calls for fair electricity rates, a more flexible payment scheme, a return of all pending refunds, reforms in Meralco billing practices, and an independent audit of the distribution utility have been met.
“The ERC is still allowing Meralco and other electric companies to cut off power at a time when Filipinos need it the most, and it can’t dodge the blame for any online classes or work from home days that will be missed due to lack of electricity. Adding to this, ordinary consumers are burdened by having to build back after the onslaught of Quinta and now Rolly, the strength of which is slowly resembling Yolanda,” Pedrosa noted.
“ERC should start worrying for electric consumers and stop acting for companies like Meralco. Otherwise, it would remain of no aid to Filipinos who would be lighting candles long after this year’s Undas,” he said.