To avoid the chaotic billing procedures last year, power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) indicated that it will carry on with the deployment of meter readers within its service areas in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces, so its customers can be billed based on their actual electricity usage.
“Meralco assures its customers that business operations, including meter reading activities, will continue despite stricter quarantine measures,” Joe Zaldarriaga, vice president and spokesperson of the power firm said.
He added “this will ensure that actual consumption for the month will be billed accordingly,” with him noting noting that their crew will also be on stand by round-the-clock “to respond to any emergencies and reports.”
It has to be recalled that when the government enforced the most rigid lockdown measures in March to May last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, distribution companies like Meralco as well as the electric cooperatives, were instructed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to dispatch “estimated billings” to their customers.
But when politics reared its ugly head on the issue, it was also the DUs that ended up as “punching bags” in Congressional investigations; and the ERC went up to the extent of imposing fines against Meralco when the ‘estimated billings directive’ had been swamped with consumer-complaints.
Over the weekend, quarantine measures had been tightened anew in Metro Manila as well as in the provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna because of the rising Covid infections, which had been reaching record-levels of more than 7,000 cases in recent days.
Apart from sustained meter reading activities, Zaldarriaga stated that “Meralco business centers will also remain open to handle customer payments, concerns, inquiries and service applications.”
The Meralco executive similarly laid down that in their deployment of personnel doing meter reading, the company is guaranteeing that they are adhering to strictest health protocols “in order to safeguard the health and safety of both our customers and our own personnel.”
He qualified that “meter reading will be unobtrusive and the deployed meter readers will follow all safety procedures.”
The power sector had been among those heavily battered financially last year, not just because of slowdown in electricity demand, but the DUs were also instructed on several collection-deferrals from certain class of customers; or for the bills that piled up during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ (MECQ) periods from March-June and then in August of last year.
The overall expectation this year would still be “low demand” in the electricity industry, and consumption will be more on households because of the persistent work-from-home arrangements for employees as well as the online-distance learning for students. (MMV)