Filipinos living in condominiums and subdivisions will no longer qualify to avail of the ‘lifeline subsidy’ or electricity rate discounts extended to financially challenged power consumers.
According to Manila Electric Company (Meralco) Vice President Lawrence S. Fernandez, based on the tenor of Republic Act 11552 or the law extending lifeline subsidy rates to marginalized end-users for 50 years, only those living in the housing projects of the government could avail of subsidized rate.
“Those who cannot be eligible will be customers residing in condominium or subdivision projects – except in NHA (National Housing Authority) projects; and then the customers availing of net metering services who are not marginalized end-users,” he expounded.
Fernandez qualified they do not have exact figures yet as to how many Meralco customers will be eligible for lifeline rate discounts and the scale of cost reduction for qualified end-users.
“We will be guided by the final IRR (implementing rules and regulations) of the law to determine who can be eligible,” the Meralco executive indicated.
In the initial implementation of the lifeline rate subsidy, the discount rates had been from 25-percent to 75-percent for customers with zero to 100 kilowatt hours (kWhs) of usage on their monthly electric bills. Even condominium and subdivision dwellers could be eligible then as long as their consumption had been within the threshold.
But in the extended subsidy availment, Fernandez noted that the law’s prescription is mainly to cover Filipino consumers that are in the Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) roll of the government.
“The current IRR draft specifies that those eligible will be household beneficiaries under the 4Ps Act and marginalized end-users to be certified as below-the-poverty threshold set by the PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority),” Fernandez said.
The 4P list is under the supervision of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); while the PSA has been updating ‘poverty threshold’ on a per-province and per-district level in local governments.
It has been the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) that was mandated under the law to craft the IRR of the extended lifeline power rate subsidy policy of the State. Hence, the industry regulator is currently in consultation and has been soliciting inputs from relevant power industry stakeholders on the measure’s enforcement.
The lifeline power subsidy law that was signed by President Duterte in May this year, primarily stated that “in order to provide assistance to electricity consumers, especially those living below the poverty line, and to achieve a more equitable distribution of the lifeline subsidy, a socialized pricing mechanism called a ‘lifeline rate’ for qualified marginalized end-users shall be set by the ERC.”
As further specified, “the level of consumption, subsidy and rate shall be determined by the ERC after due notice and hearing.”