As many financially-distressed consumers still struggle to survive, the country’s power distribution utilities (DUs) like the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and other service providers are being urged to enforce ‘flexibility or leniency in payments’ so their electricity supply won’t be oppresively cut off.
Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian advanced that plea to the country’s private DUs and electric cooperatives, especially for customers who are in the lower totem pole of 200-kilowatt hours and below threshold of consumption.
The lawmaker said the distribution firms must “seriously consider other consumers on a case-to-case basis,” such as those for senior citizen customers, persons with disabilities (PWDs), displaced workers as well as the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that were forced to close shop because of the lingering adverse impact of the pandemic.
On Meralco’s part, Vice President for Corporate Communications and Spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga qualified that “disconnection is not our priority but we have advised customers who still have arrears to coordinate with us so we can provide assistance.”
The Meralco executive emphasized “we are bending further by trying to find a middle ground and solutions on a case-to-case basis for all our customers who have difficulty paying because of accumulated bills.”
Zaldarriaga assured the subscribers of the utility firm that “we are here to assist and provide help to all our customers.”
In the business sector’s league, Gatchalian cited that based on data culled from the Department of Trade and Industry, more than 90,000 businesses – which are generally MSMEs – have remained closed.
Beyond the companies that folded, the lawmaker asserted that the power firms must genuinely weigh the adversities suffered by millions of Filipinos who have lost their jobs or have been living through the torment of reduced incomes.
Then from that, the DUs must at least leave electricity service as a remaining comfort to these marginalized segments while the economic jolt of the pandemic has yet to wane.
“While I empathize with the distribution utilities that they have financial obligations as well, I don’t think it would make a dent on their collections if they would leave out those who really cannot afford to pay even a fraction of their outstanding bills,” he stressed.
Meralco, in particular, noted that it will no longer extend its ‘no disconnection policy” which it had set a cut-off timeframe until January 31 this year.
Nevertheless, many consumers – primarily those in the marginalized bandwidth of usage – are still agonizing over payments of utility bills that have piled up during the pandemic.
It is within this context that government leaders and the utility firms are now exploring compromise and feasible options, so the consumers will not be denied of basic utility services that they so badly need during these lingering times of a crisis.