Meralco urged to extend installment payment scheme for customers
Robie de Guzman • January 12, 2021 • 389
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on power distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to extend its installment-based payment scheme to help its customers cope with economic difficulties due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hontiveros said implementing stricter payment policies might lead to a “disconnected nation” that will make life harder for poor families and derail efforts to revive the country’s economy.
“Hindi maganda na ngayong 2021, maliban sa COVID-19 ay magkaroon din ng epidemiya ng tanggalan ng kuryente sa ating bansa,” she said in a statement.
“Mas mahihirapan umahon ang bansa mula sa pandemya at sa bagsak na ekonomiya kung mas maraming Pilipino ang mapuputulan ng kuryente sa kanilang mga kabahayan dahil sa mga polisiya ng Meralco,” she added.
Meralco earlier announced it has begun sending out notices of disconnection to customers using 201 kilowatt-hours and more per month, and those who are behind in their monthly payments.
The power distributor also said it will be hiking power rates up to P8.7497 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) this year, which means that an average household consuming 200 kWh per month will be charged around an additional ₱55 in their bill.
Hontiveros said the disconnection policy combined with new rate adjustment in the generation charge is on top of the already high regular monthly electricity bills consumers must pay.
“Itong anunsyo ng MERALCO ay mistulang one-two-three punch sa ating mga kawawang consumer, na marami ngayon ay knock-out na sa mga utang, mahal na bilihin at kakulangan ng hanapbuhay dahil sa pandemya,” she said.
“Mas malaki na ang singil ng kuryente, andiyan pa ang panganib na matanggalan ng kuryente kapag hindi nakabayad ng buo. Baka maulit o mas malala ito sa ‘bill shock’ last year na inalmahan ng ating mga kababayan noong 2020,” she added.
Hontiveros expressed hope that MERALCO will stick to its corporate motto of “May liwanag ang buhay,” and work with the government towards programs that will prevent the denial of power services to many Filipinos who are struggling amid the pandemic.
“Electricity is an essential need lalo na ngayong may pandemya. Hindi siguro kalabisan na humiling pa ng makatwirang palugit. Bago ang lahat, kapakanan muna ng ating mga kababayan ang pangunahin na mas dapat inuuna, bago ang kita,” the senator said.
She also advised the power firm to work with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and explore the possibility of extending its debt restructuring program, which offers flexible or staggered payment options for consumers who are having difficulties paying their monthly power bills so that they could avoid disconnection.
“Siguro naman, hindi hamak na may kapasidad ang MERALCO, ang mga power suppliers at kanilang mga bangko na i-manage ang problema sa utang kumpara sa pinapasan ng mga consumers ngayon,” she said.
“Accommodating this installment-based payment scheme will also ensure that more Filipinos will not get disconnected and will remain as MERALCO’s customers, which will be beneficial in the long run,” she added.
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Department of Health (DOH) to release a public report on the P9 billion fund allocated for makeshift hospitals and isolation facilities.
Hontiveros issued the call following reports of hospitals in Metro Manila becoming overwhelmed amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.
“The P9 billion, if effectively used, is supposed to go to setting up temporary but humane and fully equipped makeshift hospitals. Filipinos shouldn’t have to watch their loved ones die, sometimes under the heat of the sun, just because hospitals are full,” she said in a statement.
Hontiveros said the P9 billion budget under Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) dedicated for Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs) and isolation facilities needs to be flagged as ‘urgent expenditure’ as hospitals are already reaching full capacity for COVID-19 patients.
She also stressed that is imperative for IATF and DOH to quickly reinforce and upgrade their One Hospital Command Center (OHCC), which is a hotline meant to refer patients to hospitals that still have bed capacity, but has been ‘unreachable’ because of the alleged ‘basic set up’ of its system.
“People are running from city to city while experiencing an emergency because the OHCC cannot be reached. The OHCC could have easily harnessed the capabilities of our world-class BPOs. Filipinos answer the phones when the world calls. We don’t deserve these busy signals,” she said.
“With the billions in funding we have available, that is nothing but another lazy copout. Every phone call they do or do not pick up can spell the difference between life and death. We have known for many months that COVID variants, if left uncontained, could overwhelm our hospitals. Why didn’t we prepare for the worst?” she added.
Hontiveros also said that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) can accredit additional TTMFs to reimburse its operating cost.
“It is important to set up makeshift treatment centers where we can. With added support from the government, it is a system that will be easier to replicate in more areas, especially in areas where hospitals can no longer accommodate more patients,” she said.
“Our health workers and our patients need full support. There is no excuse as to why we are holding back from giving them the best that their lives depend on,” she added.
Metro Manila, and four nearby provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna have been placed under enhanced community quarantine until April 11 in a bid to stem the spike in COVID-19 cases.
Various hospitals earlier reported that their bed utilization rate for COVID-19 cases has reached a critical level amid the surge in infections.
MANILA, Philippines – Tatapyasan ng Meralco ang singil sa kuryente ngayong buwan ng Marso bilang bahagi ng pagpapatupad ng refund na iniutos ng pamahalaan.
Ayon sa Meralco, aabot sa P0.36 kada kilowatt hour (kWh) ang mababawas sa singil sa March bill.
Katumbas ito ng P72 na bawas-singil para sa mga kumukonsumo ng 200 kWh kada buwan, P108 para sa mga gumagamit ng 300 kWh, P144 sa 400 kWh, at P180 para sa may konsumong 500 kWh.
Ang hakbang ay kasunod ng pag-apruba ng Energy Regulatory Commission sa panukala ng kumpanya na ibalik sa mga customer nito ang nasa P13.9 bilyong halaga sa loob ng 24 na buwan.
Sa pagtaya ng Meralco, nasa P0.27 kada kWh ang ire-refund sa buwanang bill ng residential customers.
“It represents the difference between yung actual na Weighted Average Tariff at saka yung ERC-approved Interim Average Rate namin. So, mayroon kaming nakitang difference in terms of the amount which is at, sa aming estimates, is at 13.9 billion,” ang pahayag ni Joe Zaldarriaga, tagapagsalita ng Meralco.
Ito ang ikalawang sunod na buwan na tinapyasan ng Meralco ang singil nito sa kuryente. Ito rin ang pinakamababang singil simula noong Agosto 2017.
Samantala, tiniyak naman ang Meralco na nananatili ang “no disconnection” policy nito para sa mga lifeline consumer na may bill na dapat bayaran sa March 2021.
Ang mga tinatawag na lifeline consumer ay yaong mga kumukonsumo ng kuryenteng mas mababa pa sa 100 kWh kada buwan.
Ang polisiya ay iniutos ng Department of Energy bilang tulong sa mga consumer na lubhang naapektuhan ng COVID-19 pandemic. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)
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