Meralco has up to 2015 to complete P30-B refund
Manila Electric Co., the country’s biggest power distributor, has been allowed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to extend the period of paying out a P30.2-billion refund to customers up to December 2015.
In a briefing on Friday, ERC executive director Francis Saturnino Juan said the distribution utility needed more time to carry out the last phase of refund payments—which was supposed to have been completed by yearend. He said Meralco was experiencing difficulties in locating some of the commercial and industrial customers that may have already left or moved elsewhere.
Meralco likewise faced difficulties in processing the refunds of other customers due to “documentation requirements.”
According to Juan, the extension was necessary since Meralco still needed to return to its customers P6.3 billion—the outstanding figure as of September this year—out of the total P30.229 billion. This meant that the power firm had already paid out a total of P23.9 billion since it began the refund in 2004.
It was in 2003 that the Supreme Court ordered Meralco to refund its customers a total of P30 billion in overcharges related to income taxes which were incurred from 1994 to 2003. The first three phases of the refund process have already been completed, but represented less than half of the total amount.
The fourth and last phase of the Meralco refund has been divided into Phase 4a and Phase 4b. Customers falling under Phase 4a of the scheme included small commercial and industrial customers, flat rate streetlights, government hospitals, and metered streetlights with contracted demand lower than 40 kilowatts. Phase 4b covers the remainder of commercial and industrial clients.
The last phase is spread among roughly two percent of Meralco’s close to five million customers but is the most expensive phase, involving P18.6 billion as per previous estimates, because of the size of the individual accounts.
According to Juan, the Commission has yet to discuss and determine what it will do with the money that will not be refunded to the rightful customers, in case Meralco is unable to locate them.
One of the proposals is to split the amount and refund this to all Meralco customers, while another suggestion urges the power utility firm to hold on to the funds for a certain number of years, after which the money should be turned over to the national government, he said.
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