By Myrna M. Velasco
Consumers are given leeway to pay their electric bills spread over a four-month period once the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is lifted by the government.
That is based on a directive issued by Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi to public and privately-owned corporations and entities in the restructured electricity sector.
“The accumulated electricity bills falling due during the ECQ shall be amortized in four equal installments, payable in the first four months following the end of the ECQ,” the energy chief has emphasized.
The DOE directive further stipulated “all electricity consumers shall be provided a grace period to pay their bills falling due during the extended ECQ periods without interest, penalties, fees and charges.”
Given the energy chief’s mandate, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has been subsequently asked to issue the detailed guidelines on the four-month installments of ECQ-heaped up power bills.
The energy department said the payment leverage being afforded to electricity consumers is in line with the provisions of Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” that is the country’s legal shield in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
To the players in the power sector across the power generation and supply to transmission and onward to the distribution chain – be it public or private corporations, the energy chief decreed that “all obligations falling due during the original and extended ECQ, shall be given a similar grace period without interest, penalties, fees and charges.”
At the same time, the DOE prescribed that “four months amortized payment shall be al¬lowed for all unpaid balances or obligations during the said period, without interest, penalties, fees and charges.”
Relative to the feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) that is collected from the electric bills of consumers and will in turn be remitted to qualified renewable energy (RE) developers, the DOE specified that this shall also be “suspended for another billing period.”
Meanwhile in the retail competition and open access (RCOA) sphere, the DOE noted that “arrangement for the payment of contestable customer obligations with their retail electricity suppliers falling due during the original and extended ECQ shall be according to their negotiated agreements.”
Absent such arrangement, it was recommended that the parties “adopt the same or similar scheme” as stated in the DOE order.
But in order to lessen the impact and help manage the cash flow in the energy supply chain, the DOE seeks “immediate and proportionate remittance of payments received ahead and within the due dates to their respective creditors and suppliers.”