Meralco to extend ‘payment leeway’ to typhoon victims

Published November 17, 2020, 3:19 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

For its customers adversely affected by recent typhoons, power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) indicated that the utility firm shall be extending “payment leeway” on the bills of its subscribers.

“We will be very considerate to customers affected by these two successive typhoons,” Meralco Spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said, referencing on the twin cataclysm – typhoons Rolly and Ulysses – that pummeled many parts of Luzon.

In Metro Manila, in particular, it was noted that the worst-hit areas had been those in Marikina City and Rizal; while other service areas of Meralco in Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon and Bulacan were also struck by the recent weather mayhems.

At this stage though, Zaldarriaga emphasized that the power firm’s priority is “to energize the remaining areas that were severely affected. As of Tuesday (November 17), Meralco was still working on bringing back the electricity services of 78,803 customers in Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal and Metro Manila.

The country’s main metropolis still had 8,814 customers waiting for their power supply to be restored as of Tuesday; and these are in Marikina, Caloocan, Quezon City, Pasig, Navotas, Valenzuela, Malabon, San Juan, Taguig, Makati, Pateros, Mandaluyong and Manila.

“While restoration efforts are still ongoing in areas like Bulacan, Rizal and in parts of Metro Manila, toppled poles, downed wires and damaged transformers and the severe flooding in some of these areas continue to affect the pace of restoration,” Zaldarriaga explained.

He said “re-energizing these areas, particularly those that are severely flooded, could pose more danger to our linemen and most importantly our customers, hence, we proceed with extreme caution before restoring power back.”

On Monday (November 16), consumer advocacy group Power for People Coalition (P4P) sought the imprimatur of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) “to extend appropriate power relief to consumers,” following the devastation of typhoon Ulysses in the franchise area of Meralco as well as in other domains of Luzon.

With the havoc left by the typhoon, P4P Convenor Gerry Arances noted that “the ERC can do so much more to relieve consumers from their electricity bill burdens than a highly selective extension of bill payment deadlines.”

The no-disconnection policy set out by the ERC for unpaid electric bills that accrued during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ, through a grace period until December 31, 2020, is just one measure to ease the financial burdens of some consumers.

But in P4P’s belief, the power industry regulator must expand the payment elbow room that it must accord to consumers, primarily due to the typhoons that had worsened the financial condition of many consumers.

“We hope that the calamity Filipinos experienced would finally jolt the ERC awake to see that an extension for all is already the least aid it could provide to power consumers,” Arances stressed.