Senator Risa Hontiveros secured the commitment of officials from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) that power distributors like the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) will extend their “no disconnection policy” for defaulting power consumers up to the end of the year, so Filipino families will enjoy a “maliwanag at masayang Pasko” this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the Senate hearing on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Energy (DOE) and attached agencies, energy officials reported to Hontiveros that power distributors like MERALCO are set to relax their deadlines for issuing notices for disconnection and cutting power supply for families unable to fully pay their power bills.
This came after the senator urged MERALCO and other power firms to extend their “no disconnection policy” to at least up until December 31, 2020.
“Huwag nating ipagkait sa mga kababayan natin ang simpleng kasiyahan na inaasahan nila ngayong Pasko at Bagong Taon. Magkaroon po tayo ng awa sa mga pamilyang nahihirapan lalo na ngayong marami ang nawalan ng trabaho at negosyo. Sana po ay wala munang magpuputol ng kuryente at magbibigay ng disconnection notice hanggang katapusan ng taon,” Hontiveros said.
In response, ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera said that the agency will see to it that MERALCO and other power distributors will give families up until the end of the year to settle their pending bill payments following guidelines to be set by the ERC and the provisions of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act.
Under the Bayanihan to Recover As one Act recently passed by Congress, utility companies are required to giver another 30-day grace period, at the minimum, for consumers during the pandemic.
After the grace period, consumers should be allowed to settle pending payments on a staggered basis.
“Natutuwa akong marinig ang commitment na ito mula sa ERC at aasahan ko ang agaran nilang aksyon. We expect that this initial commitment will turn into concrete action. Ito ay maagang Pamasko sa ating mga kababayan na humihiling pa ng kaunting panahon para tuluyang mabayaran ng buo ang kanilang bills,” Hontiveros said.