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Sen. Go calls on energy agencies to check complaints on high electricity bills.

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go has called on energy-related agencies of government to look into growing complaints on cases of alleged unjust electricity bills that some consumers received from power distribution utilities, such as Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Go, chairman of the Senate health ad demography committee, said government should protect the interest and welfare of the ordinary Filipinos especially at this time when the people are in a difficult situation due to the crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

He asked that Meralco explain the basis of computing the electricity bills during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) when actual meter reading was not possible, and also the amount shown in the June billings.

"Maraming mga reklamo hinggil sa mataas na electricity bill na natanggap ng consumers. Kailangan ipaintindi ng maayos ang pinagbasehan nito. Importanteng masiguro na tama at patas ang aplikasyon nito para hindi dumagdag sa pinapasan ng ating mga kababayan (There are several complaints regarding high electricity bills received by consumers. The basis of this needs to be explained properly. It is important to ensure that the application of this is correct and fair so that it will not become an additional burden to our countrymen)," he said.

In a statement, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairwoman Agnes Devanadera said: "We have been bombarded with complaints on Meralco's alleged high billings covering the past three months, including this May. (W)e need to look into these consumers' allegations (and so) we required Meralco to submit to us data or information for us to validate the accuracy of their billing calculations.''

Go urged the ERC to investigate the issue further and ensure that consumers are charged the right amount.

Go emphasized that while Meralco has made efforts to explain the reason behind the increased amount of electricity bills, further corrective measures are necessary to assure consumers that there is no overcharging.

He pointed out that now, more than ever, profits should not be prioritized over the welfare of the general public.

"Nananawagan din ako sa Meralco na ipaliwanag ng maayos sa simpleng paraan at ibigay ang kumpletong impormasyon upang maintindihan ng mga tao. Huwag baliwalain ang mga reklamo, pakinggan niyo ang hinaing ng ordinaryong mamamayan. Tulungan po natin sila at pangalagaan ang kapakanan ng mga bumuhay sa inyong negosyo (I am calling on Meralco to explain properly in a simple way and provide the complete information so that it could be understood by the people. Do not ignore the complaints, listen to the concerns of the ordinary citizens. Let's help and protect the welfare of those who make your business alive)," he said.

Go also requested the power companies to defer disconnection should some consumers fail to pay their electricity bills incurred during the ECQ.

Earlier, Go urged the private sector to help alleviate the woes of workers and citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic by giving them enough leeway with paying their utility bills.

"I appeal to the private sector--the industry players, business leaders, foundations and the like--to join hands and combine our efforts as we fight COVID-19 as one nation, as one people," Go said in a statement.

Go emphasized further that threats of COVID-19 to the safety and lives of our people continue to grow. While the government is doing its best, a whole-of-society approach is needed to help the whole country overcome the crisis.

According to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi, as early as May 15, the DOE had written Meralco seeking an explanation on the complaints from consumers on the spike in their electricity bills.

On May 26, DOE called the executives of Meralco to personally explain these spikes and advised them to re-issue the electricity bills based on actual meter readings instead of using the estimated average consumption.

Another meeting was held on June 3 to discuss the implementation of earlier suggestions to issue new electricity bills to consumers.

During the meeting, Meralco informed DOE that they would be issuing advisories explaining the May and June billings, through letters, social media posts and print media notices.

DOE also attended several meetings called by the Joint Congressional Energy Commission and House Committee on Energy to discuss the "bill shock" issue.

To date, Meralco has re-issued June billings based on the actual meter readings with customer-specific explanations on the computation and how it will be paid on installment basis.

Cusi assured that DOE is working continuously with Meralco and ERC in monitoring the developments .

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Senator Bong Go
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Title Annotation:National; Christopher Lawrence Go
Author:Casayuran, Mario
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 27, 2020
Words:749
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