Meralco’s “offsetting” scheme?

LAST Sunday, in my interview with Sen. Imee Marcos over my regular radio program, ‘Meet the Press On Air’ at ‘Radyo Pilipinas’ (738khz, AM band), she mentioned that in one of their (Senate) previous “sit down” with ‘Milagro Electric,’ err, ‘Manila Electric Company’ (Meralco), the latter claimed incurring “losses” from their “commercial” clients.

If memory serves right, Meralco, according to Sen. Imee, told lawmakers their losses from the shutdown of businesses due to the Luzon-wide lockdown were around “30 percent.”

Its basis, we can assume, was their previous collection (read: profit) from various commercial establishments before the lockdown, without argument, the biggest consumer of electricity.

Although our discussion shifted to the Senate’s proposed “invitation” (again) for Meralco to explain the basis of their billing for their “residential” clients (read: its more than 6 million household customers like you and me) for the May and June billing period, Sen. Imee’s remark struck a suspicious chord from other listeners of my radio program.

For indeed, it is not farfetched to suspect that in its effort to maintain its target profit margin for the year—whatever the percentage is—Meralco, the wily and untrustworthy company that it is known to be all these years—is now “offsetting” its 30 percent losses from its commercial clients to us, the residential customers.

This is entirely not a wild guess considering that Meralco is really finding it hard to explain—convincingly—that the May and June billings were the result of their “actual meter reading.”

For indeed, how can a customer suddenly consume twice, thrice and even more in just one month (the June billing in particular), electricity that is beyond their “average” consumption even before the pandemic?

It is now thus imperative for the Malacañang to order the ERC to look into this suspicion if only to clear the air of doubt for all concerned.

For its part, the ERC can take this issue of excessive billing by Meralco (again) especially in this period of pandemic, by stopping the practice of “babying” this oligarch-owned company by merely accepting all its submissions to the commission.

In other words, the ERC should launch an honest-to-goodness independent audit of Meralco in particular, and all the power distributors in general.

For how can the public expect that it is not getting a “pakitang tao” investigation by the ERC if it is content on accepting, ‘hook, line and sinker,’ so to speak, everything that Meralco said and submitted?

Similarly, for the Senate, it should likewise do the same—to also stop swallowing, hook, line and sinker,’ everything that this company tell them. Its “book of accounts” should be forced open.

To stress, if our national leaders and the authorities are indeed sincere in alleviating the suffering of our people because of the massive dislocation and disruption that COVID-19 have caused, they should seriously consider the suspicion that in Meralco’s effort to offset its 30 percent profit loss from its commercial customers, it has heartlessly targeted for wholesale fleecing its residential customers.