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Meralco refutes group: Electric bills fairly calculated, increase due to several factors

/ 05:37 PM May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Electric service provider Manila Electric Company (Meralco) shut down allegations that it is using the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic to hike rates, saying that the increase in electricity bills was due to several factors.

Meralco’s public information chief Joe Zaldarriaga explained in a letter to INQUIRER.net on Tuesday that claims of consumer rights group Power 4 People (P4P) of profiteering amid the lockdown have no basis, especially since the summer season usually translates to higher usage rates of appliances like air conditioning units to bring the temperature down.

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Couple this with the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) which forced people to stay at home for most of the day — which supposedly meant higher electricity consumption.

“There is no truth to P4Ps allegation of high power rates during this period. In fact, consumers’ electricity for May bills were carefully and fairly calculated based on the result of the ‘actual kWh consumption’ from the current meter reading, with adjustments already reflected, coming from the estimated consumption done during the ECQ period,” Zaldarriaga said.

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“The past 3 months of December 2019, and January/February 2020 were considered “low consumption” months due to significantly cooler weather compared to the summer months of March, April and May,” he added.

On Monday, P4P questioned whether Meralco is using the ECQ to get away with the sudden spike in electricity rates, as it can allegedly use the stay at home policy to justify the hikes.  It also chided the company for several interruptions that came even with the high electricity bills.

The group urged the Energy Regulatory Commission to look into the issue.

“And it is unbelievable that when malls, factories, offices, and other large electrical consumers are closed, Meralco’s grid is suddenly incapable of coping with the demand,” P4P Convenor Gerry Arances said in a statement.

However, Zaldarriaga said that the recent spate of brownouts was caused by the spike in the consumption rates and the continuous rise of temperature.

He also reiterated that Meralco consumers would be given an option to settle the bills left unpaid due to the ECQ in four monthly installments after May 30.

“The recent brownouts are largely attributed to the spike in residential power consumption due to ECQ and the rising temperatures, but Meralco worked round the clock to address the situation. Our crews and linemen worked hard this entire ECQ, ensuring that we keep the lights on for our customers,” he explained.

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“Higher consumption during ECQ since most are at home, and appliances (aircon and fans) are switched on for up to 12-24 hours compared to 6 to 8 hours per day before ECQ,” he said.  “Temperatures are at a record high (max so far for 2020 is at 37.3⁰C with Heat Index of 42⁰C).”

Several sectors, including P4P, have asked the company to just refund the entire March bill and charge it against pending refunds — as many of its customers were left without work as the ECQ forced the suspension of work, except for essential frontline services.

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TAGS: 2019 Novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, consumer rights group, COVID-19, ECQ, electric service, electricity bill, enhanced community quarantine, GCQ coronavirus strain, general community quarantine, high electricity rates, Joe Zaldarriaga, lockdown, Manila Electric Company, MERALCO, nCoV update, P4P, Philippine news updates, Power 4 People Coalition, service interruptions, stay at home, summer
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