By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday said residential consumers should defer paying their electricity bills until such time that the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is able to issue a separate billing statement that is more transparent.
“Let me just clarify, don’t pay your Meralco bill until Meralco issues the new and clear billing,” Gatchalian said in an interview over CNN’s The Source.
“I’m not saying don’t pay your Meralco bill period because malulugi naman yung ating utility and this is what we owe our utility,” he added.
“So mag-i-issue sila ng bagong billing, more transparent, easy to read, and the basic principle here, you have to know what you are paying for. This is what we instructed Meralco and this is what the regulator, ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) also instructed Meralco to do and all utilities dahil meron tayong 100 plus utilities nationwide,” Gatchalian said.
At the hearing of the Joint Congressional Energy Commission last Friday, Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, berated Meralco officials for failing to provide clear and sufficient information on the billing statement of electricity consumers for the month of May.
Most power consumers experienced “bill shock” and complained of the unreasonable high electricity rates for the month of March and April which fall under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period.
Because of this, Gatchalian urged the ERC to issue a new advisory instructing, not only Meralco, but all other distribution utilities as well to unbundle the exact rates that were charged to consumers during the ECQ.
Gatchalian also criticized Meralco for charging consumers a P47 convenience fee for those who will pay their electricity bills online.
“Pwede naman palang tanggalin ang P47 pesos. Sana sinabi na nila nung una para hindi na nadagdagan pa ang stress ng mga mamamayan, (They can remove the P47 from the start. They should have done that from the start to relieve people of their stress),” he said.
Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said she too expects Meralco to address consumer woes and issue a new detailed electricity bill reflecting actual power consumption.
“We rely on the commitment of Meralco to issue a new detailed electricity billings reflecting actual consumption, which is the only credible basis for the charges consumers must pay,” Poe said.
She said the public should not be made to shell out lump-sum payments for unjust estimates or conjectures.
“The electricity bill should be accurate, fair, and clear. No lights in homes should go off for those who have yet to receive Meralco’s promised bill clearly specifying charges and installment dues,” Poe said.