Meralco suspends power service disconnection anew
MANILA, Philippines — Customers of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) will enjoy another monthlong reprieve from getting their service disconnected for nonpayment of power bills, the utility firm told lawmakers on Monday.
Meralco is suspending the issuance of disconnection notices until Oct. 31 as one of its measures to relieve consumers’ woes during the pandemic, following complaints of a huge increase in power rates during the lockdown from March to May.
“We will extend the suspension of disconnection notices until the end of October so we can give our customers more time to save enough money to pay their bills,” Meralco president and CEO Ray Espinosa told the House of Representatives’ good government committee.
The panel, chaired by Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, held its fifth hearing on the “sudden big spike” in electricity rates experienced by consumers after the company suspended its meter reading during the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in many parts of the country.
At the hearing, Meralco confirmed that it would provide P2.7 billion in assistance to small and medium enterprises, and lower the generation charge in electric bills by invoking the force majeure clause, saving consumers P1.9 billion in their bills.
It also announced the setting up a P101-million relief fund to subsidize the bills of some 2.77 million “lifeline customers,” referring to poor households with an electricity consumption of less than 50 kilowatt-hours each month.
Alvarado thanked Meralco for the various forms of assistance to consumers, but he urged them not to take advantage of the suspension of disconnection notices.
“If we are able to pay, then let us pay; otherwise, the power sector might collapse and we might return to the Stone Age,” Alvarado warned.
“Let’s do our share. What I mean is if you don’t have the means to pay, then tell us and we will try to intercede on your behalf. But for those who do have the means to pay, even little by little, let us pay our bill,” he said.
As of March, Meralco had 6.4 million residential accounts, or 92 percent of the total. Commercial customers accounted for 530,864 (8 percent) connections and industrial customers, 10,580 (0.2 percent).
Meralco, the country’s biggest power retailer, operates in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
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