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Gatchalian grills Meralco over vague electricity bills, points out 'overestimation'

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday castigated the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) for not indicating in the bill the overestimated and underestimated amount of electricity consumption during the lockdown period when meter reading was not done.

During a Senate hearing, Gatchalian, who chairs the committee on energy, said he cannot understand his Meralco bills for the months of March to May.

The estimated consumption in the senator's condominium unit for March and April were P10,244.55 and P10,315.13, respectively, when he was not even staying there. His May bill, on the other hand, was only P3,386.05.

Gatchalian asked Meralco when they plan to reconcile the bills and refund the "overestimated" amount for consumers with similar experience.

Meralco, on the other hand, maintained that the senator was not overcharged because his May bill already reflects the adjusted amount.

"There's no overcharging, sir, on your bill because your May already reflected your consumption based on the reading that we did... Your consumption in the month of May is actually lower so it means that what happened during that period was that anything that was overly estimated in March and April was already adjusted in your May consumption," said Victor Genuino, Meralco First Vice President and Head of Customer Retail Services and Corporate Communications.

Gatchalian pointed out that the said explanation on deducting what was overestimated in March and April has not been indicated in the bill that he received.

Genuino admitted the said lapse.

"So how will we find out kung adjusted na 'yun? You expect me to blindly trust Meralco?" he asked.

Meralco vowed to issue a clarificatory letter to its consumers to address the said gap and specifically dissect the amounts being demanded from them.

"There has been basically a failure on our part to clarify to our customers what is actual and what is estimated. I wish to apologize to you and all our similarly situated customers," Meralco president and CEO Ray Espinosa said.

"In order to address this particular issue clearly, I believe it is necessary now for us in Meralco to send each of our customers falling within this case a separate clarificatory letter that shows exactly what was the previous reading as of February and what was the reading in May if that was the date in which their meters were read or in June if that was the case," he said.

"And explain to them clearly now that the estimated consumptions in March and April or in some cases in May, have actually been accounted for and that they are not being billed in addition to what they have actually consumed," he added. "It is not Meralco's business to charge our customers beyond what they have actually consumed."

Espinosa said he will order the release of such letters as soon as possible and added that he targets to do so within 30 days.

Gatchalian said he will be waiting for the clarificatory letter before paying his balance to fully understand the bill.

"I suggest na ganoon ho ang gawin natin, antayin ho namin ang explanation letter, kasama na ho ako doon, bago ho magbayad para hindi magulo. Kasi kung magbayad ho kami how do we know kung sosobra na naman 'yun?" the senator said.

"Tama po iyan, ito ngang sulat na nasasabi ko, sana po iyan na nga ang maging batayan ng pagkalinaw sa customers namin kung ano ba talaga ang kanilang kinonsumo, magkano ba dapat nilang bayaran, at kung sila ay entitled to installment, ano po ang kanilang installment plan," Espinosa said in response, particularly noting that it was the May bills that were the most problematic.

"Ang i-aaddress po natin 'yung mga bills ng May na nakita natin, sa pamamagitan ng ehemplo ng inyong bill, na may kaguluhan. 'Yun po ay dapat namin pag-igtingin ang pagpapaliwanag sa pamamagitan ng separate na sulat," he added.—AOL, GMA News