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‘ECONOMIC RELIEF’

MWSS extends grace period for unpaid bills

Regulators at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) on Thursday ordered Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. to extend by at least one month the grace period for settling unpaid bills that residential customers incurred during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ enforced between March and June.

The MWSS Regulatory Office said customers should be given the leeway to pay their bills “at least until the end of the third quarter [Sept. 30] this year.”

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Before this, the concessionaires were directed to give lifeline customers—low-income households that consume at most 10 cubic meters a month—until the end of August to settle their accounts. Regular or nonlife customers were given a grace period of up to July 31.

MWSS chief regulator Patrick Ty said in a statement the order to extend the grace period was part of measures to help ease the effects of the new coronavirus pandemic on households’ finances.

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“The directive was initiated on the basis of humanitarian and public health considerations, and with the intention of providing further economic relief to customers, in addition to the staggered and installment payment schemes currently in effect for ECQ and MECQ water bills,” Ty said.

“During this [grace] period, the concessionaires are to suspend water service disconnection activities, resolve billing inquiries and complaints, and provide customers ample time to update payments for accumulated water bills,” he added.

‘Noncompliance’

The latest order came just a day after the regulator issued a directive which directed Manila Water and Maynilad to explain why they should not be punished for “noncompliance” with standing directives related to ECQ and MECQ bills.

Such alleged violations, the MWSS said, resulted in a surge of more than 400 billing complaints.

The two companies were directed to verify the consumption patterns of customers, check for irregularities and automatically withhold any bill that does not conform with the customer’s consumption pattern.

They were also directed to “communicate effectively, and in a timely manner, all information regarding the directives to customers and concerned stakeholders.”

Both concessionaires, however, maintained that they have followed the regulators’ guidelines.

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TAGS: bill payment, extension, MWSS, Regulatory Office, water, water bill
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