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Gatchalian opposes resumption of Meralco's online payment fee

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday said the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) should continue to waive the P47 convenience fee for online payments of electricity bills amid the COVID-19 situation.

"The 47 peso-convenience fee is a disincentive for consumers moving online. Why will Meralco resume collecting 47 pesos from every household when many of our ordinary kababayans have just returned to work trying to recover financial losses? This should not happen! The public has been inconvenienced enough," Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on energy, said in a statement.

Last week, Meralco Senior Vice President and Head of Legal and Corporate Governance Office William Pamintuan said the waiver of the P47 charge effectively ceased when Metro Manila and surrounding areas covered by the power distribution company shifted to the general community quarantine, as he stressed that business centers and other payment channels have already reopened.

“Baka nakakalimutan ng Meralco na nandyan pa rin ang banta ng COVID-19 sa kalusugan ng bawat mamayan sa kabila ng pinaluwag na quarantine. Kaya nga natin sinusulong ang paggamit ng online platforms sa pagbayad ng mga bills ay upang hindi na lumabas ng bahay at makipagsapalaran sa mga bayad centers at iba pang establisyemento ang mga tao," Gatchalian said.

“We don’t want other distribution utilities to get an idea in coming up with a similar setup, to the detriment of power consumers. We don’t want to create undue stress to our consumers,” he added.

Meralco had previously clarified that the convenience fee goes to an online third-party service provider that operates and maintains the virtual payment gateway.

Gatchalian implored the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to investigate the fees being charged by these service providers. — DVM, GMA News