Meralco urged to extend installment scheme for consumers
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to extend its installment scheme for consumers as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
Hotiveros said the “stricter payment policies” might lead to a “disconnected nation” that will make life harder for poor families and derail efforts to revive the economy.
“Hindi maganda na ngayong 2021, maliban sa COVID-19 ay magkaroon din ng epidemiya ng tanggalan ng kuryente sa ating bansa,” Hontiveros said.
(It’s not good that aside from COVID-19, there will also be an epidemic of power disconnections this 2021.)
“Mas mahihirapan umahon ang bansa mula sa pandemya at sa bagsak na ekonomiya kung mas maraming Pilipino ang mapuputulan ng kuryente sa kanilang mga kabahayan dahil sa mga polisiya ng Meralco,” she added.
(It will be harder for the country to recover from the pandemic if more Filipinos will have their power disconnected because of Meralco’s policy.)
Hontiveros’ call comes after Meralco announced that it started sending out notices of disconnection to consumers using 201 kilowatt-hours and more who are behind in their monthly payments.
Aside from this, Meralco also announced that overall rates increased by P0.2744 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) this January to P8.7497 from December 2020’s P8.4753.
“Itong anunsyo ng MERALCO ay mistulang one-two-three punch sa ating mga kawawang consumer, na marami ngayon ay knock-out na sa mga utang, mahal na bilihin at kakulangan ng hanapbuhay dahil sa pandemya,” Hontiveros said.
(MERALCO’s announcement seems like a one-two-three punch to our poor consumers, many of whom are now knocked out by debts, high prices, and lack of jobs due to the pandemic.)
“Mas malaki na ang singil ng kuryente, andiyan pa ang panganib na matanggalan ng kuryente kapag hindi nakabayad ng buo. Baka maulit o mas malala ito sa ‘bill shock‘ last year na inalmahan ng ating mga kababayan noong 2020,” she added.
(The higher the electricity bill, the greater the risk of power outages if you do not pay in full. This may be a repeat of or worse than the ‘bill shock’ last year that our countrymen criticized in 2020)
Hontiveros likewise called on Meralco to work with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and explore the possibility of extending its debt restructuring program, which offers flexible or staggered payment options for consumers who are having difficulties paying their monthly power bills so that they could avoid disconnection.
According to the senator, in 2020, Meralco implemented such a six-month installment scheme for households consuming 200 kWh and below, and a four-month installment scheme plan for households consuming 201 kWh and above.
“Meralco’s earnings in the past decade have reached P10 billion annually, and remained profitable even amid pandemic with P21B total profit in 2020,” Hontiveros said.
“Siguro naman, hindi hamak na may kapasidad ang Meralco, ang mga power suppliers at kanilang mga bangko na i-manage ang problema sa utang kumpara sa pinapasan ng mga consumers ngayon,” she added.
(Perhaps with this in mind, Meralco, its power suppliers, and their banks have the capacity to manage the debt compared to making their consumers handle it by themselves.)— Zac Sarao, Trainee
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