MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has warned that the structure of the country’s energy supply chain should be considered first before making proposals about waiving electricity bills due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga explained that other players and industries would be affected by proposals made by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), who filed a petition asking for the waiving of bills of consumers affected by the suspension of work.
“Meralco, on the average, accounts for only 20 percent of the entire bill with the biggest share in the bill going to generation,” he said in a statement sent to reporters on Friday.
“There is also an entire supply chain, we all need to consider as well, when deciding on matters such as what is being suggested because Meralco is only one of the many entities included in the energy supply chain,” he added.
Bayan said in their document submitted to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) that the bills of households who use an average of 200 kilowatt-hour (kWh) or less should be waived, as well as the first 200 kWh of those who consume around of 200 kWh to 500 kWh.
According to Zaldarriaga, they are already implementing measures that would help their lifeline customers, like providing 20 to 100 percent subsidies for those using 100 kWh or less per month — while aiding the government in its response towards the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would also like to emphasize that through our recent Competitive Selection Process plus invoking Force Majeure during the ECQ period, Meralco was able to bring down power prices to their lowest level in more than two years,” he noted.
“Aside from donating PPEs, alcohol, and resources to frontline agencies and organizations, Meralco energized in support of the DPWH several facilities converted to COVID centers, including World Trade Center, Rizal Memorial, and others,” he explained.
Bayan explained that this assistance to the poor and lower middle class families is necessary because it is possible that consumers will find it hard to pay for utilities even if the community quarantines are lifted.
While several utility service companies have expressed their willingness to extend billing periods without cutting their services, customers would still have to settle their entirety of their bills in several tranches.
Add this to the fact that electric bills have seen a spike because of the stay at home policy and the summer season — which immediately translates to higher consumptions — then even the middle class may find it hard to pay the bills.
Just recently, several consumer groups have slammed Meralco for the spike in their May bills. However, Meralco defended the high rates, claiming that these were borne from estimates and corrections from the March and April billing periods, both significantly lower as these were based on estimates for the past three months, which are low temperature periods.
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