The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) on Tuesday said it is studying suggestions to extend installment payment terms for its consumers.
In a Senate hearing, Senator Risa Hontiveros asked Meralco vice president and head for Utility Economics Lawrence Fernandez if the power distributor can consider extending its payment terms to help consumers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Currently, we are guided by the [Energy Regulatory Commission’s] October 2020 advisory. But even beyond that, we already extended the disconnection moratorium for consumers using 200-kilowatt hours or less,” Fernandez said.
“We can consider, we will study the suggestion to extend payment terms for our customers. We just have to note that out of the total bill, the actual distribution portion is the portion that goes to Meralco and the rest are passed through charges, which we have to settle in full and on-time,” he added.
Fernandez disclosed that Meralco has been paying these charges for over 10 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
“Meralco has been paying our generation, transmission, and other suppliers in full and on-time while we are not able to collect in full from our consumers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hontiveros asked ERC’s comment on the suggestion.
In response, ERC’S Director for Market Operations Service, Ms. Sharon Montañer said the uniform disconnection policy is covered by the 19 October 2020 advisory issued by the commission.
“This is a minimum and they can go beyond it if they so wish, so that’s no disconnection until end of December,” she said.
For Meralco, the ERC official said its threshold is set at 200 kWh.
“We are continuously monitoring the situation on the ground and we will issue necessary intervention as needed po. We will also look into the issue you brought up today so we can also review and monitor,” she added.
Earlier, former House Energy Committee chair and now House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the Meralco has extended the no-disconnection policy until 31 January 2021.
In a statement Tuesday morning, Hontiveros asked Meralco to coordinate with ERC to extend the installment payment scheme on electric bills.
“Hindi siguro kalabisan na humiling pa ng makatwirang palugit lalo pa’t mas may kakayahan ang Meralco, power suppliers at kanilang mga bangko na i-manage ang problema sa utang kumpara sa pinapasan ng mga konsyumer,” she said.
Hontiveros noted Meralco’s earnings in the last decade which reached P10 billion annually and has remained “profitable” despite the pandemic.
“Umaasa akong tutuparin ng Meralco ang corporate motto nitong ‘May Liwanag ang Buhay,’” she ended.
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