Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and other power distribution utilities (DUs) to extend the “no disconnection” policy for low-income consumers at least until the end of the general community quarantine (GCQ).
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, noted that the “no disconnection” policy of Meralco was originally set to end last December 31 but was extended only until January 31, 2021.
The policy, which covers households consuming 200 kilowatt hour (kWh) per month and below, benefits over three million of its customers.
Given the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the senator said it is imperative that power regulators provide relief for its consumers who were hard-hit financially by the pandemic.
“Except for a few, who are offering essential goods and services, the majority of businesses are not operating in their full capacity and unemployment remains to be a problem. Everyone is still struggling financially,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
The November 2020 nationwide survey on COVID-19 and its impact on the Filipinos conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc. showed that 58 percent of the 2,400 surveyed either lost their jobs or sources of income.
The senator noted those hardest-hit belong to Class D and E as 58 percent and 64 percent of them respectively ended up having no means of livelihood.
The lawmaker also pointed out more than half of the respondents from Mindanao or 57 percent experienced a reduction in salary or income; meanwhile, 53 percent of those from Class A, B and C nationwide also experienced losing a job or source of income last year.
A study done by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) also showed that as of October last year, unemployed Filipinos have reached 3.8 million, compared to the previous year’s 2.1 million.
“While there is no sign the pandemic is going to end soon, I hope our DUs, like Meralco, will provide some more leeway when it comes to unsettled electricity bills. I hope they allow human consideration to prevail during this hard times to cater to the needs of the population,” he said.