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Meralco customers turn to humor to ease bill shock

Carrying their latest Meralco bill, several neighbors huddled one hot afternoon to compare their electricity charges.

In what they called the "bill reveal," they open the envelope to slowly show how much they should pay Meralco, according toa "24 Oras" report by Maki Pulido.

One bill showed P16,000, up from last month's billing of P11,000.  Another said her bill doubled compared to the previous month.

They said humor was their way of easing the bill shock.

"Pakitaan ng resibo kung magkano, ikaw magkano. bakit sa 'kin dumoble. tapos tanungan sa'n kami kukuha," Eleanor Basilia, a Meralco customer, said amid laughter.

(We compare bills, we see some have doubled then we asked each other where will we get the money.)

They further said that the dreaded word is no longer "marites," referring to a gossipy person.  Now, it's "judith" or the slang for due date, which many feared.

"Si judith talaga ...Hindi na marites, si judith na (It's no longer marites, but judith).

Officials of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Inc. (PREC) worry their customers might not see the increase in their bills in a humorous light, especially with the results of their survey showing that 31 cooperatives, mostly from the Ilocos Region and Western Visayas, have announced power hikes.

"Distributor lang sila ng kuryente taga kolekta taga remit ... worry lang namin hindi maintindihan ng consumers," said Janeene Colingan, PREC executive director said.

Several electric cooperatives are studying whether to provide installment options for their customers who are hard up paying the bill in full.

This option, however, is not being considered by Meralco which said it also needs the money to pay their suppliers.

"The electricity has been consumed. In our case, it's post paid, you consume first before customers pay," Meralco spokesperson Joe Zadarriaga said

The bill for May reflects increases in transmission charge, taxes, and other charges. Also up was the generation charge, which Meralco and electric cooperatives use to buy the electricity supply.

The distributors said that in April, they purchased at a high cost the electricity from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

The surge in prices in WESM was due to the power plants that malfunctioned causing a thin electricity supply.  

The report said that the cooperatives purchased electricity 55% higher in the Visayas and 11% in Luzon.  The increases in the cost will all be passed on to the consumers. —Vince Ferreras/LDF, GMA Integrated News