Power distributor Manila Electric Company on Monday agreed to defer until October 31 the disconnection of electricity services of customers with unpaid bills of at least one month as it continues to address overcharging allegations aired by clients facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facing for the fourth time the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability, Meralco officials led by its CEO Ray Espinosa disclosed that it has put in place a number of actions aimed at cushioning the pandemic’s impact on its customers.
Asked by Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy Alvarado if it is willing to accept the proposal of congressmen to postpone the September 30 deadline for customers to pay arrearages, Espinosa readily agreed.
“Ang suspension ng disconnection ay hanggang October 31 para mabigyan ang mga customers ng sapat na panahon na makalikom ng pambayad. (The suspension of disconnection will be until October 31 to give customers enough time to raise money),” said Espinosa.
Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, then addressing the public during the on-line committee hearing, called on Meralco customers to pay their bills to keep the power distributor’s finances afloat.
“Kung hindi tayo magbabayad sa Meralco baka bumagsak ang energy sector at mawalan tayo ng koryente (If we do not pay Meralco, we may no longer have electricity because the energy sector might go bankrupt),” he said.
Sy-Alvarado then enumerated the actions Meralco claimed it had carried out to be of help to its customers.
Reiterating what Espinosa and other Meralco officials have discussed, Sy-Alvarado said the firm has taken various corporate actions to ease doubts consumers feel about their power bills.
According to Alvarado, Meralco has announced it has started “actual meter reading” to prevent apprehensions on the actual computation of electricity bills.
To recall, the good government panel conducted the congressional inquiry in response to mounting accusations that Meralco had taken advantage of the COVID-19 situation to overcharge their customers for their electricity consumption from March to June.
Aside from agreeing to defer the disconnection of unpaid service units, Meralco has also agreed to give up at least P2.7 billion in guaranteed minimum billing demand to help small and medium scale enterprises recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alvarado also noted that Meralco is no longer imposing the P45 convenience fee in electricity bills.
He added that since the power distributor will claim force majeure in seeking lower generation charge, all customers will benefit from the total P1.9 billion expected to be deducted from the total generation bill.
In the same hearing, Espinosa said the company has also approved a relief package consisting of discounts on the distribution charge in the bills of lifeline customers. The assistance will cost Meralco P101 million.