ERC to direct Meralco, power firms to extend bill payments

Published October 1, 2020, 1:08 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is scheduled to issue an advisory or order that will direct power utilities, like the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), to extend for at least 30 days the bill payments of customers in line with the prescription of Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan Act-2.

ERC Commissioner Floresinda B. Digal said the mandate from the regulatory body will be rendered either end of this week to early part of next week.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has requested the ERC since last week to issue the necessary procedures and guidelines for the implementation of its advisory to effectively enforce the “minimum of 30-day grace period and staggered payment without interests, penalties and other charges to all payments due within the period of community quarantine in the electric power value chain to include generation companies, transmission utility and distribution utilities.”

The directive that was issued by Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi primarily stipulated that all players across the energy industry supply chain – including fuel providers for electricity generation shall “observe the grace period and staggered payment for the unpaid bills provided under the law.”

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi (Photo credit: https://www.doe.gov.ph)

In the case of Meralco customers, those in the consumption base of 201 kilowatt-hours and up had already been previously provided with four-month amortization flexibility; and that was even extended by the utility firm for another month or until October 31 this year.

The end-users in the consumption threshold of 200 kWhs and below had been given longer payment leeway of six months; or until November this year.

The additional 30-day grace period under Bayanihan Act-2 then would provide extended latitude for the electricity consumers to settle their electricity bills.

In the DOE advisory, it specified that the extension on payments must apply to: fuel resource suppliers to power plants; as well as the private and government-owned generation companies (GenCos) “with respect to payment of electricity bills for the supply of electricity to DUs, retail electricity suppliers and directly-connected customers.”

The order shall also cover independent power producers (IPPs), primarily on remittance of payments by state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM); then the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines relative to the transmission services payable by GenCos, DUs, directly-connected customers and other end-users.

It was similarly prescribed that the payments due to the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) for total trading amounts and other charges by participants of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) be included in the extended payment arrangement.

Further, the retail electricity suppliers had also been asked to extend the same payment leverage to their contestable customers.

Despite the edict, and for purposes of easing the cost impact and help manage the cash flow in the energy supply chain, the energy department still sought for “the immediate and proportionate remittance of payments received to the respective creditors and suppliers.”

And for the power customers who have the capability to pay their bills in full, the DOE indicated that they are also encouraged “to continue paying their bills within the original due dates.” (MMV)

 
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