Meralco asked to explain spike in electricity bills

THE chairman of the House committee on energy has asked the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to charge its customers based on their actual power consumption in light of growing complaints on the recent spike in electricity bills that have shocked many amid the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic gripping the country.

At the hearing Friday of the Joint Congressional Energy Commission (JCEC), which is co-chaired by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Meralco, the country’s largest distribution utility, was asked to explain the increase in electricity charges and the convenience fee it charges to customers.

“Talagang nagulat ang mga consumers nang kanilang makita kung gaano kalaki ang bill nila. Mahirap na nga ang buhay, nagka-COVID pa, tapos may malaki pa silang babayarang kuryente,” said Velasco, the chairman of the House committee on energy.

During the hearing, Velasco even showed a sample of a billing statement from Meralco, which jumped to over P30,000 despite averaging about P10,000 for two months prior to the pandemic.

Meralco representatives told the power sector primary watchdog that electricity billing was based on the actual consumption from the current meter reading and the “estimated consumption” in March and April, when billings were deferred due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

But when Velasco asked if actual meter readings were done during the entire ECQ, Meralco admitted that for the month of April, it only managed to cover 1 percent of its customers.

“That’s the point,” Velasco said. “We want Meralco to be transparent in their charges and to conduct actual meter readings so that we can be assured that there is accurate basis for the electricity bill that must be paid by their customers.”

Velasco called the attention of Meralco for failing to inform the public ahead of the changes in the billing charges of power consumers. “Meralco has a lot of explaining to do. Explain the details, explain the specifics . . . and the payment terms.”

Further, Velasco requested from Meralco that consumers will not be faced with disconnection should they fail to pay their electricity bills incurred during the ECQ.

To this the utility company said, “We will be very considerate for the benefit of our customers.”

According to Velasco, the utility company should also assure consumers that the necessary adjustment in their bill will be applied, if any, and that they will only pay for electricity that they actually consumed.

“This is the only way Meralco can provide a credible basis for the charges,” he added.