SENATOR Imee Marcos said extending the moratorium on power disconnections to December 31 would still fall short of helping consumers adapt to the challenges thrust on them by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, lauded the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for promising to order Meralco and other distribution utilities (DUs) to further extend the moratorium deadline that they had earlier reset from September 30 to the end of October.
However, Marcos said the yearend cut-off that the ERC is now considering in a draft order would only be a short-term solution for consumers trying to complete back payments of their electric bills and worrying of how to cope with life in the New Year.
“With children learning at home, unemployed parents and graduates trying to trade online, doctors coping through telemedical care, now more than ever our families need reliable power,” Marcos explained.
“I understand that it’s a domino-forward supply chain and power producers need to be paid by distributors, coops, and utilities, which in turn must be paid by consumers,” Marcos added.
“But we can’t turn off the lights on education, business, and medical care when the New Year comes in. We need an end-to-end plan involving all stakeholders in the power supply chain,” Marcos asserted.
Questionable billing statements since community quarantines were put in place mid-March continue to haunt Meralco and make a valid argument against disconnections until computations are clarified, Marcos said.
Meralco still has to resolve 32,308 complaints referred to it by the ERC, making up more than half of the 63,458 complaints the government agency had received until the first week of October.
“Until now, customers are baffled by the mathematics used to arrive at mere estimates of what the charges should actually be,” Marcos pointed out.
The misstep in charging customers more than expected without conducting actual meter readings has complicated Meralco’s present position, Marcos said, citing a World Economic Forum report that household power consumption did increase worldwide especially during the first weeks of lockdown.
The dramatic reductions in power consumption were recorded in the industrial and services sectors as economic activity slowed down, Marcos added.
“Only the gradual easing of lockdowns will bring back jobs and income streams for households and businesses. For now, Meralco and other DUs must be willing to literally share their power or we shall all get disconnected from economic recovery,” Marcos said.