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ERC orders Meralco to explain alleged violations on ECQ advisories

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has ordered Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to explain its alleged violations on advisories issued by the regulator, providing guidelines on how power distributors should deal with its customers during the lockdown periods.

In a statement, the ERC said it issued a show cause order to Meralco dated May 29, directing the distribution utility to submit an explanation on why it should not be held liable for its alleged violations of the regulator’s directives within 10 days from its receipt of the order.

“The Commission provided enough guidance to the distribution utilities on their dealings with their consumers during the periods of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), so as not to cause additional burden at the time of a Public Health Emergency due to COVID-19,” ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera said.

“We cannot tolerate such non-compliance and any erring party must be held accountable for their actions or misactions,” Devanadera said.

In its order, the power industry regulator indicated that Meralco allegedly violated certain directives in the advisories it issued particularly with respect to the following:

  •     The utilization of estimated billing may be applied, provided that the word “ESTIMATE” be clearly written on the consumer bill stipulated in the item No. 3 of ERC’s March 26, 2020 Advisory, item No. 4 of April 15, 2020 Advisory, and item No. 5 of May 5, 2020 Advisory.
  •     The cumulative amount of electricity bill that was supposed to have fallen due within the ECQ shall be amortized in four equal monthly installments, payable in the four succeeding billing months following the end of the ECQ as stipulated in the item No. 6 of April 15, 2020 Advisory.
  •     Payments thereof by customers in areas covered by ECQ extension until May 15, 2020 shall commence no earlier than May 30, 2020 as stipulated in the item No. 2 of May 5, 2020 Advisory.

Meralco has been on the rocks after its customers complained of receiving unusually high electricity bills in May. The issue has been the subject of a series of Senate and House of Representatives hearings.

The power distributor has since explained that the May bill consists of actual consumption for the month plus the estimated consumption in March and April —which was computed based on the average three-month consumption prior to the quarantine.

The ERC has ordered Meralco to issue new billing and conduct actual meter readings, to reflect actual consumption and the corresponding amount due.

Sought for comment, Meralco confirmed the receipt of the letter from the ERC.

“We believe that we have complied with the existing regulations and directives set by the regulator and we will explain in full to the Commission the basis for our actions and compliance,” Meralco first vice president and Regulatory Management head Jose Ronald Valles said.

“We reiterate that Meralco has not violated any rule even if our operations were severely challenged by this pandemic,” Valles said.—AOL, GMA News