Senator Grace Poe on Monday appealed to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to reconsider its 2016 order forfeiting all unclaimed meter-deposit refund, adding that the ERC must press distribution utilities to exert more effort in retuning them to electricity consumers.
Poe, chairperson of the Senate public services committee, noted that for Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), unclaimed meter deposits amount to P314 million as of September 30, 2020.
“We need to be sensitive to the needs of the people. Mataas na nga ang presyo ng mga bilihin at nagmamahal pa ang presyo ng pagkain (Prices of commodities have already increased and food prices are still getting more expensive). We must find ways to put money back in people’s pockets, especially money that rightfully belongs to them,” she said in a statement.
Poe referred to the ERC’s Resolution No. 12 issued in 2016, which set the rules for the refund of meter deposits by distribution utilities (DUs).
Under the resolution, DUs were ordered to put all unclaimed meter deposits in a single account intended only for the claimants.
The ERC also gave customers until December, 2017 to claim their meter deposit refunds, and all unclaimed refunds will be subjected to an escheat proceeding in favor of the government.
The refund came from the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumer, which exempted residential customers from the payment of meter deposits, starting July, 2004. Nonresidential customers were eventually exempted from the payment of the meter deposits in April, 2006.
According to Poe, Meralco submitted an accounting of the total meter deposit principal and interest in August, 2008. While the refund of the meter deposits started in 2008, Meralco still holds P314 million of the total meter deposits that represent deposits of those who have terminated its services.
Meralco, as of October 26 last year, was waiting for the ERC’s directive about the unclaimed meter deposit refund, she said.
“There’s an upside in the delays in the ERC action. The money would have just been forfeited in favor of government. That it hasn’t acted on it gives us time to exert more effort in returning it to those who actually paid those deposits. People need money right now. Somehow, it is not fair for government to just take it for itself,” Poe said.
She said Meralco can also help find those customers by providing a mechanism on its website for people to check if they are among those entitled to the refund or publishing the names of the people entitled to the refund.
“2008 pa yung mga refund na ito. Marahil, may pumanaw na sa kanila. Pero kung buhay pa sila, hindi naman tama na ipagkait sa kanila ang kanilang pera. Mahirap ang buhay ngayon.(Maybe some of them already died. if they are still alive, it’s not proper to deprive them of their own money. Life is difficult nowadays),” she appealed.