Gatchalian warns Meralco, other DUs vs possible bill shocks under MECQ

Senator Win Gatchalian today warned the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and other Distribution Utilities (DUs) against possible unexplained bill shocks, a replication of what transpired during the Luzon wide-Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) period.

“We’re at it again. Metro Manila and nearby areas are now back to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ). Meter readings may not be possible due to the lockdown period. Add to this is the possibility that a number of affected consumers may appeal anew for deferred or extension of payment in their monthly bills,” Gatchalian said.

Meralco faced rampant complaints over the unexplained surge in the monthly electricity bills of consumers at the height of the summer community quarantine.

“The consumers cannot afford another round of bill shock in their electricity bills. Nabulagta na nga ang mga tao sa overestimation at underestimation ng Meralco sa nagdaang monthly bills, baka magkaproblema na naman sa computation ng darating nilang billing statement ngayong MECQ. Yung iba, dapat may refund pa,” the Senate Energy Committee chairman said.

Gatchalian pointed out that it’s incumbent upon the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), as the government’s supervisory body in the power sector, to give relief to consumers and ensure that their interests are protected.

“Just like the time when the Luzon-wide ECQ was extended, the ERC undertook measures that somehow eased the burden of affected consumers by directing all distribution utilities (DUs) in the country such as Meralco to allow a staggered payment scheme. We’re hoping to hear a similar directive in the days to come,” the senator said.

The ERC has issued several advisories deferring payment of electricity bills falling due within the ECQ, without interests, penalties, fees and other charges – one is the April 15 advisory covering the period March 16, 2020 to April 30, 2020 and the May 5 advisory extending the deferment period until May 15, 2020.

Gatchalian also emphasized that the ERC and the Department of Energy (DOE) should immediately issue the corresponding directives applicable to all areas in the country in whatever classification of community quarantine they are in.

“Dapat natuto na tayo sa naging karanasan natin sa ilalim ng ECQ at MECQ noon. Ngayon pa lang dapat nailalagay na sa ayos ang ganitong mga bagay na posibleng pagmulan na naman ng anumang kalituhan sa bahagi ng mga consumer,” Gatchalian ended.