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Delay paying 'shocking' Meralco bills until updated ones arrive, says Poe

It is just right for power consumers to defer payment of their electricity bills until the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) settles their concern on "unusually high" charges amid the quarantine, Senator Grace Poe said on Monday.

"We ask Meralco to issue a final and correct billing based on accurate meter reading of the actual kilowatt-hour consumption," Poe said in a statement.

"Until such accurately updated bill indicating exact staggered due is received by customers, it is proper that they hold off payment," she added.

Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, recognized the effort of Meralco to explain the billing but stressed that many households are still confused and burdened by the sudden spike in their bills.

"Still reeling from the COVID-19 backlash, the last thing our consumers need are shocking electricity bills that could throw them off-track anew," she added.

The senator also underscored that while Meralco irons out the billing issue, disconnections from services must be avoided.

"As the company sorts out our billings, they should keep our lights on as uninterrupted power supply is crucial to run life-saving equipment in hospitals and to keep people connected," she said.

Last week, Meralco explained that the latest bills received by its consumers in May reflect the full impact of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

"What was billed in May will be the actual of May which reflects full ECQ impact (people are on lockdown and consume more) plus the adjustments from March and April thus the higher actual consumption as reflected in the bills," Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said.

The March and April bills were initially based on the average consumption from the previous three months prior to the ECQ because of suspended meter-reading activities.

Residents of Metro Manila and other high-risk areas were forced to stay home since March 17 due to the ECQ to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

A modified enhanced community quarantine took effect on May 16, allowing some establishments to resume operations at limited capacity.

The MECQ will be in effect until May 31. —Dona Magsino/KG, GMA News